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Monday, April 15, 2024

Espionage Play Review: Rubicon

Rubicon World Premier program
Today I'm reviewing a play rather than a movie, and a spy play based on a true story!  It's a brand new play I saw in Denver at it's world premier.  That's right, it's new and I wanted to share it with all of you.  

There are books about Elizabeth (Betty) Pack--nee Thorpe ("The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal" by Howard Blum and "Cast No Shadow" by Mary S. Lovell), but no splashy movies.  That's why this play felt important to me.  FYI: No nudity, I'd rate it PG13

Play Blurb:
"Starting in the years leading up to World War II, the plot follows Elizabeth “Betty” Pack as she transitions from society wife and mother to steely, seductive agent for British and American Intelligence.  As missions take her from Madrid to Warsaw to Washington, Betty uses her charm, beauty, and intellect as tools of espionage, leveraging her sexuality to influence global affairs.

Overflowing with intrigue and wit, Rubicon is an engaging portrait of an unsung heroine and the sacrifices she makes to change the course of the war. It addresses the stigma attached to choosing professional determination and personal agency over traditional gender expectations. It’s a work that’s suspenseful, alluring, and surprising all at once."

What's It About?:
  It's about a charming, beautiful, and intelligent multi-lingual woman whose father is a Marine Corps officer and mother is a Senator's daughter in the heart of the Washinton DC political scene who gets recruited to spy.  She is completely unconventional for the time and looked down upon by many because of it, but they can't fault her results.  She is what many might call a "free spirit" and others just call "promiscuous" but she gains important information in her work for first MI6 and then the precursor to the CIA leading up to and during WWII.  Because of her parents, she is completely comfortable working in the aristocratic world of international diplomatic society and she is adept at seduction to get secrets, but it all comes at a personal cost.

"Wars are not won by respectable methods" Betty Pack

Written by Kirsten Potter
Directed by Chris Coleman

Starring (most played multiple parts):
Carolyn Holding at Betty Pack
Geoffry Kent as Beaverton
Kate Forbes as Lady Chilton
Aaron Blakely as Arthur Pack 
Pomme Koch as Senator Gerald Nye and Antonio
**This play was developed at the 2022 New Play Summit (Denver Center Theatre Company)

Being so very new there aren't many reviews yet.

“There’s a slinky elegance to Rubicon. The [stage] design is spare but evocative and the show moves with a fluid ease, finding the tension, sexual frisson or coy playfulness of a scene.” – The Denver Post

"Rubicon is an engaging story well told in a sleek production that does Potter’s script justice. Wartime spawns a thousand stories, but so many of them are tales of men. Here, we get an up-close look at a woman who knew her power and how to use it."  Alex Miller, On Stage Colorado

  • Photo-by-Jamie-Kraus-Photography
    Rubicon is the act that commits someone to a particular course; point of no return.
  • Betty's memoirs are now in the archives of Churchill College, Cambridge.
  • Betty was labeled "The Blond Bond" by Time Magazine, only she's not fictional.
  • One of Betty's missions was to steal the Vichy ciphers (the books that held the codes to the enigma machine used by the Nazis) at extreme risk to herself.  She did it, too.
  • Director Chris Coleman created the position of “psychodramaturgy” where Barbara Hort, a psychologist, offers psychological insights into the characters for the actors.
  • Betty's official code name was Cynthia.
  • Betty was refered to as the "Minnesota Mata Hari" and the "greatest unsung heroine of the war."
  • The world premier was extended for another week because it was so popular.
Photographer unknown
My Thoughts:
I loved this play.  The first act was the build up to her becoming a spy, so it was a little slow, understandable though.  But after she was recuited by MI6 the story took off.  

The comedic touches were great, keeping what could have been a depressing commentary on how she was regarded to a breezy feel at times.  You begin to see it how Betty did--there were far bigger issues at hand to be so sensitive.  

The play brings out the sacrifices she made for the sake of winning the war (not being part of her child's life much at all).  Occasionally, you see that she's scared, but determined to do her part to stop Hitler.  It also showed how closely she played it to the wire, at one point juggling two men at the same time to get critical time sensitive information.  The play shows she was a force, a great spy, a wounded and misunderstood woman, intelligent enough to know what would happen if she were caught but daring enough to pull it off anyway.  

The ending was like the rug being pulled out from under me.  I truly hope this play gets plenty of attention and is picked up by other play houses because it's just too good to not have more aclaim and attention.   Be looking for it.

Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.


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