Famed novelist Gore Vidal and peace activist Ron Kovic spoke opening night at the Actors’ Gang revival of “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” an indication that this seminal 1971 play still holds significance with those who protested the Vietnam War…. Though big news in 1968, the action of nine Catholics burning draft files in a Maryland town would be forgotten by nearly everyone if participant Daniel Berrigan hadn’t written a play based on the protestors’ trial….
Much of the text is taken from the actual trial. The defendants admitted to burning nearly 400 draft files with homemade napalm. The argument for their action is that stopping an immoral and possibly illegal activity – such as the Vietnam War – through nonviolent means is justified. Each draft file burned, they believe, may have saved a life. Berrigan, his brother Philip (Scott Harris), who also is a priest, and the seven others provide passionate pleas for peace, but much of their time on the stand is spent explaining how America’s involvement in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and parts of Africa establish a pattern of behavior that “forced” the Catonsville Nine to act in such a bold manner.