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FATHERLAND: Stephen Sachs’ New Play About a Son Who Turns in His Own Father for His Actions in the January 6 Insurrection

By Robert St. Martin

Hollywood, California (The Hollywood Times) 02/26/2024

Sunday February 25 was the opening night of a new play Fatherland at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. This insightful and timely play conceived and directed by Fountain Theatre director Stephen Sachs is a heartbreaking account of a family tragedy based on the true story of a son who turned in his own father for the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

It is the story of 19-year-old Jackson Reffitt who warned the FBI about his father, Guy Reffitt, before and after the January 6th Capitol insurrection. The first defendant to stand trial for the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, Guy Reffitt was found guilty on five criminal counts and sentenced to 7¼ years in prison – based in part on emotional testimony by his son and the defendant’s refusal to show any remorse.

With echoes of Greek tragedy, the entire play Fatherland is taken verbatim from official court transcripts, case evidence, and public statements. As theatre, this play hits hard at the dangerous divide in political ideology that seems to be tearing this country apart at the present time. Fatherland opened on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m., with performances thereafter on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 30 (dark Monday, Feb. 26). Tickets range from $25 – $45; pay-what-you-want seating is available every Monday night in addition to regular seating (subject to availability); The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Ave. Patrons are invited upstairs to relax before and after the show at the Fountain’s café. For reservations and information, call (323) 663-1525 or go to fountaintheater.com.

The Fountain Theatre is dedicated to presenting outstanding theater that challenges thinking while shining an artistic light on social justice issues and on the diverse voices and cultures within Los Angeles. The L.A. City Council  has commended the Fountain for “achieving a position of leadership in the Los Angeles theatre community… producing meaningful new plays of social and political importance that enrich the lives of the citizens of Los Angeles.” Most certainly Stephen Sachs as the long-standing director the Fountain Theatre has created a play that reveals how loving families can be torn apart by disparate views of how government is and should work, and how the law conflicts with deeper familial bonds.

Guy Reffitt was a Texas oil rig worker who previously made a comfortable living with oil work in Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East. He took his family with his wife, two daughters, and his son Jackson with him to these places along with his work. All was well until the collapse of the oil market with the recession of 2008. Reffitt’s family ended up back in rural Texas impoverished and struggling to survive. As Guy Reffitt attempted to provide for his family, he began to investigate various extremist right-wing organizations including the Three Percenters, who are part of the militia movement, which supports the idea of a small number of dedicated “patriots.” The group believes that they must protect Americans from government tyranny, just as the patriots of the American Revolution protected early Americans from British tyranny.

The Three Percenter concept both contributed to and benefited from the resurgence of the militia movement that began in 2008. Because many adherents to the militia movement strongly support President Trump, in recent years, Three Percenters have not been as active in opposing the federal government, directing their ire at other perceived foes, including leftists/antifa, Muslims and immigrants. Over time, Guy Reffitt grew more enraged with the direction of the federal government and placed the blame squarely on Congress – revealing to his son his personal hatred of Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. Like many other Three Percenters, Guy Reffitt distrusted both political parties, but he found his voice and ideology in Donald Trump.

Ron Bottitta As Guy Reffitt With Patrick Keleher As His Son Jackson Reffitt

Jackson Reffitt, the young son of Guy Reffitt, recounted in the court transcripts how his father began to idolize Donald Trump and consumed the words of Trump’s Art of the Dead like a Bible to guide his thinking and his actions. Jackson recalls how his father began to go to meetings of far-right extremist groups and frequently corresponded with others in these groups. Reffitt always kept a loaded pistol on his person and even on the bedstand at night. Eventually the call to future action against the government led the senior Reffitt to buy an AK-47, a bullet-proof best and stockpile ammunition.

Patrick Keleher As His Son Jackson Reffitt In U.S. Federal Court

After the presidential election in November of 2020, the Three-Percenters and other extremist groups became to plan an armed action in Washington, D.C., to undermine the results of the election of Joe Biden as President and put Donald Trump back in the White House. That is when young Jackson Reffitt heard his father’s plans to drive to D.C. with his weapons for an unspecified attack on the powers that be in Congress. As Jackson Reffiit explained in court to the prosecuting attorney later, his father considered himself a “patriot” and this was his duty to save the United States from “tyranny.”

Stephen Sachs, Director

In Stephen Sachs’ rendering of this courtroom story, we have a heart-rending glimpse into the mind of a disturbed man who is driven to extreme actions against the government because of the power of his beliefs. Ron Bottitta is an accomplished actor who carries that role so well on stage. Patrick Keleher plays his son Jackson Reffitt who captures the concern and forth-rightness of a young man with a left-of-center view of politics and conflicted love for his father that motivates his need to turn in his own father to the FBI. Young Reffitt concludes that his father has become mentally instable and, after the FBI arrests his father, Jackson Reffitt feels guilty of betraying the family and moves out the family home. All these subtleties are revealed in the court documents that form the text of the play Fatherland, a title aptly chosen to reflect the situation faced by young Reffitt.

Guy Reffitt (Ron Battita) Recounting How He Came To Join The Three Percenters

Anna Khaja as the prosecuting U.S. District Attorney in federal court pulls no punches with drawing out of young Jackson Reffitt his ambivalent feelings about his father and what his father has done in being one of the leaders of the January 6 insurrection that marched on the Capitol. The defense attorney played by Larry Poindexter attempts to show how Jackson Reffitt profited personally from going public on television networks about his father and the case. Ron Bottitta is an English actor known for his roles in the television series Boston Public, The Shield, Alias, Lost, Law & Order: LA and Grey’s Anatomy and in the films A Lot Like Love, A Christmas Carol, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and 47 Ronin. Patrick Keleber is a recurring co-star in The Egos on Amazon Prime and recently in a stage play of Arthur Miller in Colorado.

Ron Battita As Guy Reffitt, All Fitted Out For An Assault On The Capitol
Ann Khaja As U.S. District Attorney Questioning Jackson Reffitt
Larry Poindexter As The Defense Attorney For Guy Reffitt

As Stephen Sachs explained to me, he wanted to stage this play at the Fountain Theatre before the upcoming elections in order to get people to think more deeply about how the aftermath of the January 6 Insurrection haunts our psyches. Without quivering over words, it is clear that what happened on January 6 of 2021 was an assault on democracy as many Americans see it. But it is also the story of how individuals and their families have been forced to deal with the aftermath of actions against the federal government. Harkening back to the dilemma of the Greek tragic heroine Antigone, we wonder what is the right thing to do and having done that, the consequences for ourselves and others.