A Divide Between and Among Us – a review of “Building the Wall”

By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant

“Building the Wall” is based on a combination of factual events interspersed with hypothetical situations. It’s 2019, President Trump has been impeached, and Rick (Tom Kolos) is in prison.

How did this happen? In 2017, several blocks of Times Square are nearly destroyed from a terrorist attack in response to the effects of edicts from Homeland Security on immigration. From this attack, problems escalate over much of the year. Martial law is declared. It’s aimed at detaining anyone deemed a risk to national security. Containment centers overflowing with people ultimately spin into chaos and disaster. Rick was involved in one of these centers.

Gloria (Lauren A. Bethea), a history professor, meets Rick in prison. Rick has been charged with a series of crimes at a containment center. Gloria wants to engage Rick in an unfettered interview that would detail his point of view. Rick’s involvement in this tragedy began as a seed that grew from “If you don’t control your borders, you don’t have a country” to a participant in a series of evil happenings.

Even after his admissions are divulged (and they are horrific, reminiscent of the Nazi horrors during World War II), there is still a wall that divides Gloria’s world view from Rick’s. Although this wall is not a physical one built with brick and mortar, it is a microcosm of the division in the country.

The setting takes place in a prison room – one table, two chairs, two plastic cups on the table.

Kolos runs the gamut of many emotions – from a seemingly sensitive person recalling his wife and family to an argumentative, indifferent player in the tragic events. His body movements express many of these emotions – leaning forward and getting in Bethea’s face to make a point, slouching in his chair, pacing around his side of the table.

Bethea is believable as she cleverly seduces Rick with the right tone and words to bring out the truth. She transitions easily from a calm interviewer to a challenging and sometimes aggressive interrogator.

“Building the Wall” is a thought-provoking play written by Robert Schenkkan and brilliantly directed by Ricardo Vila-Roger.


“Building the Wal” runs May 24-June 10. All shows at The Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre at the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. For more information, click here

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