weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Play revisits murder of Las Vegas cops by anti-government zealots

Call it “tinfoil haberdashery,” a particularly classy way of hinting at the metaphorical headgear worn by inhabitants of society’s more fringy locales.

Call it, also, the title of Las Vegas playwright Ernest Hemmings’ latest work, which explores the way in which the online world and social media can create the illusion of community to sometimes dangerous and tragic ends.

“Tinfoil Haberdashery” a presentation of Test Market Theater Group, will be presented at the Las Vegas Little Theatre Studio, 3920 Schiff Drive, Friday and Saturday and Sept. 10-12. Curtain time is 8 p.m., and tickets are $15 and can be purchased by visiting the Test Market Theater Group website.

Hemmings says the factual foundation of the play is the murder of Las Vegas police officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck on June 8, 2014 as they were lunching at a CiCi’s Pizza restaurant near Stewart Avenue and Nellis Boulevard. The killers, who ambushed and shot the men at point-blank range, were anti-government, anti-police zealots who also shot and killed shopper Joseph Wilcox inside an adjacent Wal-Mart.

In “Tinfoil Haberdashery,” the plot spins off of that real-life experience, as well as the real-life experience of a man who later was questioned by police about his possible social media relationship with the killers.

“It’s basically about the blogosphere,” Hemmings says, and the online phenomenon he calls “anger porn, where everyone wants to be angry and everyone wants to fight and argue,” usually about things that “have no relevancy” in their actual lives.

Anger porn is “ubiquitous now,” he adds. “You can go onto Google and find any sort of information to support anything half-crossed. So everyone starts sporting the tinfoil hats, it seems, and these are normal people.”

Hemmings says he has talked to the real-life model for his main character. Then, he says, “the rest is all imagination.”

“So I took a big chunk of him, and then I have another friend who trolls online,” Hemmings says, adding that the latter is “the sweetest person in person.

“But it’s like they walk through a door that says, ‘Be Angry’ or something. I took elements of him as well, and kind of merged the two people together (to) represent the ubiquitous troll.”

Hemmings calls the play “a comedy, but it’s superduper dark.” Presented in an intimate room with a minimal set, “it has kind of a Tarantinoesque feel to it,” he says.

Hemmings says “Tinfoil Haberdashery” marks the first time that he has written a play that incorporates a real-life incident.

“This is totally different for me,” he says. “The plays I’ve done in the past were completely born out of imagination and really have no connection with anything, other than relevance. What I do, mostly, are just relevant things that are happening now.”

Also explored in “Tinfoil Haberdashery” is the implicit potential culpability of others — Facebook followers, for instance — who enable inhabitants of the hateful online fringe and, perhaps, prompt them to act upon their online musings.

“I call it the anger porn cheerleader complex,” Hemmings says, “because the thing is, people do like to argue.”

He likens the dynamic to Morton Downey Jr.’s late-’80s talk show, which engaged in controversy and argumentative rage for the sake of ratings. Now, Hemmings says, everybody on Facebook can be the star of their own show, seeking ratings — in the form of “Likes” — from Facebook friends.

In the play, “it’s an innocuous start,” Hemmings says, “but it builds to this horrific conclusion.”

“That’s the crux of it all, in this climate, the realization that you do have a hand in it. You’re the problem,” Hemmings says. “There are the murders, but that’s just a piece of it. They’re acting on applause and encouragement, because you normalize their behavior.”

“I’m all for free speech. Free speech is the greatest thing on the planet,” Hemmings says. “I think there just needs to be that moment where people just kind of wake up a little and realize that words do have an impact.”

Hemmings concedes that it’s “incredibly lofty and foolish for me to think” that “Tinfoil Haberdashery” will neutralize the acidic culture that exists in portions of the online world. But he does hope that the play at least will “force a discussion that we don’t have.”

Ultimately, Hemmings says, “what the focus should be on (is) just the way we look at ourselves and the way we treat other people. It really is the crux of this whole thing, and that’s what I wanted to focus on.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Find him on Twitter: @JJPrzybys 

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Celine Dion’s lounge gig a boon to Las Vegas act

Celine Dion performed “Because You Loved Me,” “Ashes,” Beauty and the Beast” and “My Heart Will Go On.” Her arrival drew a roar from the 300 VIPs in attendance, who were not informed of the night’s entertainment.