Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at the Canal Park Playhouse

Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, now at the Canal Park Playhouse, is an intense study of three men kidnapped in Beirut in the early 1990s.  It is a tense and tight play set in a single cell, the kidnappers never seen, but always oppressively felt by the characters.  The men in question are the American Alex, the Irishman Edward and an Englishman Micheal. 
Twenty years is a long time in terrorism.  Twenty years ago, when Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me was written and first produced, Beirut was infamous for kidnapping of foreigners.  The motivation of the kidnappers was always a question in the audiences’ mind; why does this happen, what do they want?  But as the world has moved onto bigger and more horrifying terrorism, Someone Who’ll Watch over Me actually becomes a more universal play, exploring man’s common reactions to a helpless plight.  
The three men have to learn to trust and depend on each other, despite their personal differences and national backgrounds.  The mens’ wild imaginations and perilous conditions blur the boundaries between purposeful humor and manic response.  The wildly emotional Edward, played by Timothy Riley, plays with the Irish reputation for drink and madness.  His outrageous comments are used to mask his fear.  Mr. Riley does an excellent job of showcasing Edward’s bravado and his insecurities.
The stoic American Alex is played by director Justin Lauro, who stepped into the role late due to cast issues.  Mr. Lauro is an accomplished actor, and does a great job with Alex - riding an American’s grit and determination right up to the cliff edge.  But it is Alex Teachey, as the British Michael, who carries the audience’s emotional center.  Like the audience, Michael is introduced as Alex and Edward who have already developed a relationship based on survival.  Michael has to learn how to adapt not only to his captors, but also to the odd dynamic that Alex and Edward have.  Michael is a stereotypical British man, reserved and rational to the point of annoyance.   Mr. Teachey pulls this attitude off, while showing it as a coping mechanism.

Someone ... is paired with Sarazad and the Monster-King, a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights for a younger audience.  Both of these plays make use of story-telling.  In Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, the men tell each other tales from the past, often acting them out in order to keep their sanity and strengthen their bonds.  The tales they spin give voice to their hopes and dreams. It is very well done.
The simple staging (lighting by Daniel Dungan) is effective in the intimate room.  Justin Lauro has directed the show with a nice feel for how much the audience can take before becoming numb to the situation.  Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me has grown in impact since its introduction 20 years ago.  The emotion of helplessness in the face of unfocussed anger has spread much across the population, no longer confined to small cells in Beirut. 
Someone Who'll Watch Over Me
Playwright: Frank McGuinness
Director: Justin Lauro
Cast: Timothy Riley, Alex Teachey

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