Raw emotions exposed in powerful prisoner play
(Front to back) Jack Hickey, Kevin Theis and Chris Rickett play prisoners in Oak Park Festival Theatre's production of "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me."
‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’
8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 11
Oak Park Festival Theatre, Madison Street Studio Theatre, 1010 W. Madison, Oak Park
$25 adults, $20 seniors; $15 students
(708) 445-4440; oakparkfestival.com
Updated: October 19, 2012 1:24PM
Abducted in a country far from home, stripped of peresonal possessions, chained to a wall and incarcerated for months on end in a dingy, claustrophobic cell with no way of knowing why or for how long.
That’s the unsettling terrain Irish playwright Frank McGuinness explores in his compelling 1992 play, “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me,” now on stage a superlative production by Oak Park Festival Theatre.
Inspired by a real-life hostage situation in Lebanon during the 1980s, the play finds three male prisoners — an American doctor, an Irish journalist and a British professor — trying to come to terms with the nightmare in which they find themselves ensnared.
Director Belinda Bremner, in a program note, puts her finger on the issues these characters face: “This play speaks to a question I have often returned to: What do we have in ourselves when everything else by which we defined and presented ourselves is stripped away? What do we discover about our preconceptions of ourselves? And, perhaps more important, how do we deal with our preconceptions of others and theirs about us?”
After months of confinement, cellmates, Adam (Chris Rickett), the doctor and Edward (Kevin Theis), the reporter, are frazzled. In fact, when a third hostage, Michael (Jack Hickey), joins them, he’s unsure whether the others have passed the breaking point.
The strain shows on Adam who, not knowing whether it’s day or night or what punishment the Arab guards have planned for him, has upsetting nightmares of his parents, childhood and girlfriend.
He and Edward taunt one another but soon realize they need to stick together if they are to get out alive. Putting on a happy face for their unseen captors who monitor their behavior from the sidelines is a survival technique they quickly pass on to Michael, who is still mourning his late wife and concerned about his aging mother’s well-being.
To break the boredom, Adam exercises frequently and reads the Bible or Koran, the only available reading matter while Edward and Michael narrate from memory blow-by-blow descriptions of how significant horse races and tennis matches had played out. All three share stories of younger days, talk about sex, movies and sports, sing songs and hold a mock cocktail party, complete with pretend martinis.
As a way of venting their frustration and airing their fears about what fate awaits them, each “writes” letters to their loved ones that they know will never be sent.
A fiercely determined Edward, hanging onto his dignity, declares that his keepers “haven’t made me less than a man. They do as ordered; I do as I choose.”
Hickey, Theis and Rickett, formidable actors all, give life-affirming performances. They hold nothing back in this gripping two-hour play where raw emotions are exposed like an open wound.