Words shot like daggers across the dimly lit table.
Mike killed a man with his 18-hole Cherry Doc, steel-toed boots, and Danny had to find a way to represent him in court. They came from polar-opposite backgrounds: Danny from religion and what he thought was tolerance, and Mike from hatred.
â€œIn a perfect world Iâ€™d see you eliminated. In this world, I need you more than ever,â€ Mike said, nonchalantly.
He represented the White Lions Chapter of the skinhead culture when he murdered the Hindu man with 32 blows from his steel-toed boots. Mike didnâ€™t want â€œthe movementâ€ to be tried; he wanted to be tried for the act itself.
This, Danny knew, was impossible.
Set in Toronto, the play â€œCherry Docsâ€ opened Bas Bleuâ€™s season earlier this month. Director Brittany Heileman said in her directorâ€™s note that â€œthis play begs the question is tolerance enough? And if we decide it is not, what must we do to stop simply tolerating and start understanding?â€
For Michael Mallard, who plays neo-Nazi Mike, tolerance is â€œone of those words you use to get out of being prejudiced,â€ and he didnâ€™t mind being the vessel of that message because â€œthat guyâ€ â€“â€“ meaning his character â€“â€“ is out there somewhere.
â€œI tolerate the barking dog next-door, but that doesnâ€™t mean I love it,â€ Mallard said, explaining that an actor never undertakes a role that doesnâ€™t have â€œa little bit of yourselfâ€ in it.
Tomas Herrera, who plays the Jewish lawyer Danny, holds the same philosophy and said to successfully execute a role he has to find the â€œextensionâ€ of himself.
Herrera thinks of hate as a â€œsurvivalist notionâ€ and said people often believe â€œletting in a certain idea would be allowing a movement to color society.â€
His character deals with just this.
Raised as a Reformed-Jew, thinking he was tolerant of others beliefs Danny enters the interview room thinking heâ€™s just an autonomous lawyer and can get the job done.
â€œDanny definitely has prejudice, even though he acts like he doesnâ€™t. And Mike definitely has love, even though he doesnâ€™t show it,â€ Mallard said.
He lives on â€œthe United Nations of front porches,â€ he is friends with people from a variety of ethnicities but he is angry and unable to look past Mikeâ€™s offense.
Eventually he admits that, to him, Mike is â€œa waste of a person,â€ white trash and uneducated.
Before his death, the Hindu man wrote a letter to Mike offering forgiveness in a world where â€œforgiveness does not exist.â€ As his lawyer, Danny forces him to read it and realizes that, in reality, Mike has a skewed perception of reality.
As a result of indoctrination, Mike believes he is a foot solider in the Aryan army. He declares his murder â€œnot to be an act of hate, but an act of service.â€
The trial date comes and Mike, though he has started on the path to change, is sentenced with prison time.
â€œNobody is truly evil, and nobody is truly good,â€ Mallard said. â€œItâ€™s ignorance, ya know? Weâ€™re taught to be proud of our culture and to think itâ€™s better than everyone elseâ€™s.â€
Prejudice is what Mallard calls a â€œmob-mentality,â€ and skinhead culture teaches its children to believe Jewish people run the country. This is an extreme version of hatred, he added.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, who leads the northern Colorado branch of Chabad, can recount a time when this hatred took two of his friends in 2008.
Terrorists attacked a five-story Chabad Jewish building in Mumbai, India leaving the leaders of the center Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, dead.
â€œWeâ€™re not an army. We canâ€™t fight,â€ Gorelik said.â€œThe response to tragedy is only to create as much light as possible when darkness comes.â€
Herrera said that he went into the play as a non-religious guy. He had to research Judaism and found that a lot of his views werenâ€™t so far from the denomination.
â€œFor me itâ€™s about getting right with yourself and realizing that everything is a practice of love,â€ he said, adding that the reason society has been unable to eradicate hatred is because people are born into it.
â€œEvery time you close a door, youâ€™re allowing that hatred to get the upper-hand,â€ Herrera said.
The play shows two men from different backgrounds come together with their own versions of prejudice and face a journey of leaving behind simple tolerance and finding acceptance.
Danny visits Mike in jail, this time as a friend, and admits his guilt: He hated Mike and blamed him for his failed marriage. He then blamed himself.
â€œOver the course of time, you start to forgive yourself,â€ Mike said, assuring him.
News Editor Kirsten Silveira can be reached at email@example.com.