THE STORY: It is 1987 and Gil Burgess, a young archeologist, is alone in the Mexican jungle at dusk when his estranged mother, Patrice, suddenly arrives. The rift between them goes back to 1977 when Gil was a teenager living with his parents in Durban, South Africa. We go back to Durban where Harry, Gil’s father, is a U.S. Information Officer. The political situation in South Africa takes a huge toll on his family, and Harry is desperate to get a new post. Patrice is close to having a nervous breakdown, and Gil bears the brunt of her condition since Harry travels frequently. Things come to a head when Gil’s older brother, Alec, a budding radical and Columbia Journalism major, comes for a visit. When he arrives, Harry is offered a cushy cultural affairs job in the Hague if he’ll provide his superior with a list of Alec’s friends in the anti-Apartheid underground. Harry refuses, but as tensions threaten to tear his family apart he reconsiders. Two years later, the Burgesses have moved to the Hague, but their problems follow them. Gil, withdrawn from his parents, is desperate to escape. Patrice verges on alcoholism, and Harry continues to try to ignore the problems around him. Alec arrives for a New Year’s visit after first stopping in South Africa. Upon his arrival, an angry Alec reveals that he was expelled from South Africa—for his own protection. All of his friends in the South African underground are dead or in prison, and Alec has received death threats. Harry’s deceit is soon revealed and the family is finally ripped apart despite his best intentions. Alec leaves, telling Harry that he just killed him. Gil, seeing his opportunity and unforgiving of his father, leaves with Alec. Now, ten years later, Gil is back in the jungle, and a poacher prowls the area looking for artifacts to steal. Alec has indeed been killed while working on an article in South Africa, and Harry has recently died. Though defenseless, Gil and Patrice scream into the night to try and frighten the poacher. In doing so they find they may still have each other.
This poignant drama takes a look at a diplomat’s family before the fall of the politics of apartheid in South Africa.
“Mr. Baitz has moral ambition…and he knows that words maim as much as sticks and stones ever did…A FAIR COUNTRY is the best contemporary American play I have seen…for some time.” —The New York Times.
“A FAIR COUNTRY, Jon Robin Baitz’ sizzling new play, describes a state of siege…[the play] is gripping…because Baitz is such a gifted writer…” —New York Daily News.
“…if you have been hungering for sheer intelligent dialogue, you can satisfy your craving at Jon Robin Baitz’ A FAIR COUNTRY.” —New York Magazine.