“Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me”, by Bad Habit Productions
“Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” Written by Frank McGuinness; Directed by A. Nora Long; Presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. and Bad Habit Productions at The Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St. Boston, MA. Performances through Nov. 16th.
McGuinness’ play about three men held hostage in Beirut, Lebanon is as timely
as today’s newspaper headlines and as timeless as the story of man’s inhumanity
to his fellow man.
this story centers not on the captors inhumanity to their prisoners, who remain
nameless and faceless throughout. But rather the personal inhumanity the
prisoners are willing to inflict upon each other in an effort to stay sane,
even at each other’s expense.
the story unfolds we see Adam (local Emerson student Sheldon Brown) an American,
is being held in a small cell somewhere near Beirut for reasons unclear to him.
He is soon joined by an Irishman named Edward (Blue Man Group alumni Gregory
Balla) and the games begin.
the outset both men are stressed and frightened and they take their
frustrations out on each other. It seems that with endless hours of
soul-crushing fear, countered with mind-numbing boredom, where there is no
night or day in this enclosed space, it is actually preferable to torment each
other than to silently sit and ruminate on the horror of the moment. Perhaps a
painful emotion laid bare is preferable to the endless days of dread.
two attack each other both physically and mentally, threatening the other’s
attempts to find a place of emotional solace, however short lived. Luckily for
the final captive to arrive, an Englishman named Michael (played wonderfully by
Jeff Mahoney), the animosity has begun to give way to the discovery that humor
can also act as an emotional salve and a social lubricant.
Michael first joins them he is distraught and seems the least capable of coping
with his kidnapping. From the first moment he is warned that they are all being
watched and is forced to give up his hysteria and laugh along with his fellow
prisoners. This is especially ironic as Michael is the quintessential
Englishman. Proper, educated – and devoid of humor. In the end though,
Michael’s matter-of-fact outlook on life may, in its own way, help see him
through. While the lack of humor may be a challenge, the other side of that
same coin is that he sees no point in not going on in an effort to
survive. So, he tries the best he can to keep a stiff upper lip.
and eerie musical cues inform us that time has passed and we again look in on
the roller coaster of emotions that prevail. At times depression and personal
attacks fill the frightening void. But flights of fancy also help keep the men
sane. They “shoot films”, “write letters home” (out loud,
never to be mailed), sing songs, and tell stories. It is in these fictional
moments that they are better able to share the truth with each other –
sometimes their feelings about each other. In this way they reveal whom each
one has to watch over them. The revelations are sad, and surprising.
part of their mental defense they continue to act out their lives because they
need to believe they are still relevant to someone, somewhere in the world.
They hold funerals, wakes and birthday parties. They sing carols when they
think it might be Christmas. They reveal to us that the biggest fear is not
what their captors will do to them. It is that they will be forgotten by them.
is a brilliant decision to perform this play in the close confines of The Carol
Deane Rehearsal Hall, one of the smaller performance spaces within The
Calderwood Pavilion. This play is after all about confinement, and that sense
of claustrophobia is relayed through a sparse set that clearly defines the
limited area in which the actors can perform.
love a live presentation that, even in our post-censorship society, can still
succeed in making me squirm. In this day and age as we are overexposed to the
unedited horrors of the world around us, it was a surprise to find myself
feeling uncomfortable as I shared the fear and frustration of captivity with
the characters onstage. I won’t spoil it by mentioning all the details, but the
small stage and the fact that the actors are actually chained to the stage
under lock and key are a few of the production choices that give the audience a
sense of being emotionally invested in the play. There are some strong
emotional moments here, especially towards the end of this two hour play. But
there are plenty of funny, warm and entertaining moments as well.
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