by Tom Dulak
Directed by Michael Parva

Reviewed by David Spencer

Here’s the thing about a political thriller: If you set up a premise in which the outcome can only be A or B, what you need to have up your sleeve, if you really mean to play the game properly, is the C that absolutely no one will see coming. A and B are the misdirection; C is the destination.

                  In Tom Dulak’s Road to Damascus, a rise in terrorism on American soil causes a newly elected black American Pope (Mel Johnson, Jr.) to announce that he’s going to Syria, to speak with the powers who can stop the violence. This goes against the interests of the US government who think he will be killed there and thus exacerbate a problem they’re trying to solve by other means. And our main character, trying to sort it all out and enable the noblest path,  is a scruffy, dissolute American diplomat (Rufus Collins) highly reminiscent of novelist Brian Freemantle's deceptive appearing  master spy, Charlie Muffin—if not quite as quietly, dazzlingly clever, beneath all the scruff.

                  So in a story like this, two choices are laid out: The Pope goes or he stays. His mission is successful and he lives or it isn’t and he’s doomed. The US maintains control or it doesn’t.

                  Dulak, aided and abetted by decent actors playing intelligent variations on stock espionage characters, under the direction of Michael Parva, provides some lively-enough political debate and espionage tradecraft talk; but the play is light on twists; mostly it bounces you between the contemplated extremes, before delivering a familiar cold war style ending that isn’t a C at all; just a bait-and-switch that seems for a minute like it might be an A (or B) and then, ha-ha fooled you, turns into a B (or A).

                  It’s all decently done, and sure-footed enough to keep you paying attention, but you’re better off staying home and watching an episode of Homeland, The Blacklist, Burn Notice; or something, anything, based on a John Le Carré novel. Or maybe Fail-Safe. Or Doctor Strangelove. Or perhaps especially, check it out on YouTube, a film based on the first novel about the aforementioned Charlie Muffin…   When the game calls for a scruffy expert cast adrift to navigate impossible seas…might as well check in with the original first, to see how it's done…how, without ever giving the game away, he exploits both A and B to create C.

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