Little Flags: cartel skulduggery

About as far away from silly British twits as one could get is the Little Flag Theatre's production about the ''rise of the supreme power elite.'' Though not without humor, ''New Rise of the Master Race,'' written by Maxine Klein, is serious, political theater.

What it isn't, however, is clear. Try this: Rebels take over Detroit and start to make electric cars, trying to save the United States from the multinational corporations that are taking their industries to the third world. Martial law, communications breakdown, and counterintelligence follow. In the end, a newly enlightened Army colonel is deciding whether to crush - or join - the rebellion.

The action takes place in the Army's Crisis Management Bureau, where bumbling officers dash in with urgent reports from the field and decisions are made with clenched teeth.

It's a very complicated plot; dubious fact and paranoid fantasy jostle with shreds of truth, and it's hard to tell one from the other. Just when you think you've got a handle on it, the action switches to funny training films on self-defense, political songs, and monologues by a smart bag lady.

The problem with this show, and it may be endemic with political theater, is that it seems to be written for those who already share their beliefs. It doesn't, as the telephone jingle goes, ''reach out and touch someone.'' If in fact Little Flag's purpose is to educate and alert the audience to the dangers about us, it fails.

Despite flaws in the script, the production is robust and energetic, shining with a sense of united purpose. Pungent humor and fine singing lighten the heavy-handedness. But that's not much help when the basic idea is so flawed. At the Palace Road Auditorium through Oct. 13.

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