“Fatherland” – A Riveting Portrayal of the Trial of a January 6 Insurrectionist

L-R: Anna Khaja (U.S. Proscecuting Attorney,) Patrick Keleher (Jackson Reffitt,) Larry Poindexter (Defense Attorney) and Ron Bottitta as Guy Wesley Reffitt, the first January 6, 2021 insurrectionist to be put on trial. Photo by Jenny Graham
Spread the love

Center Stage With…
Lady Beverly Cohn Editor-at-Large

Stephen Sachs’s production of Fatherland, on stage at The Fountain Theatre, is an outstanding theatrical experience that takes us back to one of the darkest days in American history. The director refers to this genre as “Verbatim Theatre” in that the dialogue is derived from official court transcripts, evidence, and public statements. In this case, we follow the trial of  Guy Wesley Reffitt, an unemployed oil-field worker and recruiter for the far-right “Three Percenters”* militia group, and the first of the January 6th insurrectionists
to be indicted. The action unfolds an a very sparce stage, setting for the trial taking place in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He is on trial because his son, 18-year-old Jackson, sent an anonymous tip to the FBI.

L-R:  Jackson Reffitt, played by Patrick Keleher, with his insurrectionist father Guy, played by Ron Bottitta, now on stage at 
The Fountain Theatre.
Photo By:  Jenny Graham

At rise, Jackson, soulfully played by Patrick Keleher, who captures the torment of his character having to betray his father, is being cross-examined by the U.S. Prosecuting Attorney, well played with steely conviction by Anna Khaja. Slowly, ever so slowly, through Jackson’s painful testimony, she unravels the
actions the defendant took leading up to the attack on the Capital. The storyline is not linear and moves back and forth between the courtroom testimony and confrontational scenes between the son and his father. Privy to what his father is up to, Jackson tries to convince him that what he was
helping plan is illegal and hurtful to the country, but his dad is convinced that the election was stolen and is stepping up to support the ex-president. He is committed to heeding Trump’s call to assemble in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 and decides to drive 1,400 miles from Wylie, Texas to Washington D.C. When his son asks him why he’s driving, he responds that he needs to have room for all his weapons, including pistols, AR-15s, 1000 rounds of ammunition, and body armor. Still trying to dissuade his father from taking this action, dad asks his son if he’s a traitor, and that he would have to kill him if he is. In one of the questions to Jackson, the prosecutor asks if he’s ever gone to a rally. Jackson says “Yes.” She asks him if he took weapons, zip ties, and a body armor to those rallies, to which Jackson says: “No.” Despite all, however, he clearly loves his father and is quite tormented at having turned him in.

Ron Bottitta’s explosive characterization as Reffitt, reveals the deep personal belief his character has that the election was stolen and the only solution was to storm the Capital to prevent the Electoral votes from being counted. Although he led the charge up the steps of the Capital, he testifies that because
he was doused with bear spray, he never actually breached the Capital. The defense attorney, wonderfully played by Larry Poindexter, tries to whittle away at Jackson’s testimony, but in the end, does not make any headway in trying to convince the unseen jury of his client’s innocence. In a particularly hair-raising moment, this hard drinking tough guy, who always carries a side arm, tells his son that July 6 was just the beginning and many more attacks were being planned against the infrastructure. As far as Nancy Pelosi was concerned, he wanted to see her head bouncing down the stairs of the Capital.

Being very frightened at his father’s behavior, Jackson begins to record his rantings which he eventually turns over to FBI Agent Larry Hightower. Through his inventive, immaculate direction, with the actors occasionally breaking the fourth wall, Sachs isolates one true believer. Bottitt’s riveting characterization, fills the almost bare stage, with hundreds of unseen rioters he commands through his megaphone to charge forward. In his own defense, Reffitt faces the audience/jury to defend his actions and it’s clear, given another chance, he would do it again to save his country from collapse. His personal truth is unshakable. For those of us who were riveted to our televisions on July 6, this theatrical presentation of the trial of just one of the insurrectionists, coupled with the voiceover of Trump’s speeches sprinkled throughout the play, brings back some harsh memories – especially the fighting words he shouted to the crowd gathered at the Ellipse: “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country.” Courtroom dramas have been an often-used genre – particularly compelling because they are generally based on real-life trials with, as in the case of Fatherland, the dialogue extracted verbatim. Some outstanding productions, including either cinematic or theatrical include: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, To Kill a Mockingbird, Twelve Angry Men, Inherit the Wind, A Few Good Men, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, The Verdict, My Cousin Vinny, The Rainmaker, Kramer vs. Kramer, A Time to Kill, Witness for the Prosecution, and Judgment at Nuremberg. FATHERLAND takes its place among these compelling stylistic presentations and could act as a cautionary tale of the danger that could lie ahead for our country. In closing, Guy Reffitt was found guilty on five criminal counts and sentenced to 7¼ years in prison.

L-R:  Patrick Keleher (Jackson Reffitt) Anna Khaja (U.S. Attorney,) Ron Bottitta (Guy Wesley Reffitt) in Steven Sachs’s FATHERLAND, on stage at 
The Fountain Theatre
Photo by Jenny Graham
  • FATHERLAND is Steven Sachs’ “Swan Song” as he will be retiring after 34 years of helming
    one of the most highly respected, award-winning theatres in Los Angeles which he co-
    founded with the late Deborah Culver Lawlor.
    ** The Three Percenters are an American and Canadian far-right anti-government militia.
    The group advocates gun ownership rights and resistance to the U.S. federal government

The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles: CA 90029
(Fountain at Normandie)
Conceived & Directed by Stephen Sachs
Starring: Ron Bottitta, Patrick Keleher, Anna Khaja, 
Larry Poindexter
Production Team:
Scenic Design: Joel Daavid
Sound Design: Stewart Blackwood
Lighting Design: Alison Brummer
Costume Design: Danyele Thomas
Mondays: 8:00 p.m.
Thursdays-Saturdays: 8:00 p.m.
Sundays: 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.
Closing: Saturday, March 30, 2024
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes
Tickets: $25-$45 (Tickets for Students & Seniors)
(323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com
(Secure on-site parking: $5.00)

Ron Bottitta as Guy Wesley Reffitt, the first insurrectionist to be put on trial for his role in
the January 6, 2021 storming of the United States Capital.
Photo by Jenny Graham


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.