Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"Enhanced Interrogation Techniques:
4 One Act Plays"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Gamm Theatre's current show is "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", 4 one act plays. The title is also the working euphemism of the modern military. Gamm artistic director Tony Estrella has taken four one-acts from three prominent Modernist authors, Harold Pinter, Peter Barnes and Samuel Beckett and melded these works into a single production with contemporary implications about wrongful imprisonment, torture, and U.S. government involvement on "the war on terrorism". The settings of the four plays range from a 15th-century dungeon to a 21st-century American press conference. The first play by Peter Barnes is "A Hand Witch of the Second Stage" written in 1991 which is about a woman in medieval France being accused of witchcraft and is a slapstick comedy. The two plays by Harold Pinter are "One For the Road" written in 1984 and "Press Conference" written in 2002. The first is about a government official in a police state interrogating a political dissident, his wife and 7 year old son, while invoking God and country to justify his actions. Pinter's second show is about a new minister of culture who used to be a military leader, fielding the media's questions while revealing his disdain for public dissent and his desire for approval. Beckett's play, Catastrophe" written in 1982 is about an overbearing and arrogant director and his agreeable assistant painstakingly arranging an elderly actor, who stands on a pedestal submitting to their constantly changing direction. The actor finally triumphs in his opposition against totalitarianism of the director and his assistant. All four plays receive expert direction from Peter Sampieri who directs Barnes' darkly humorous take on the absurdities of the medieval inquisition and Fred Sullivan, Jr. who directs the two Pinter plays and the Beckett play. Their talented casts pull off these shows beautifully not only entertaining the audience but giving them insightful looks at serious topics confronting the whole world today.

Peter's show is hilarious and the performers in it are a hoot with their comic timing and slapstick. Casey-Seymour Kim plays Mary who is wrongly accused of being a witch. She admits to it and turns the tables on the priest, the executioner and her accuser. Using her tormenters words against them, she scares them away and proves the court system in 1437 is as faulty as it is in current times. Casey's comic antics mesmerize the audience and she keeps you in stitches all night long. She also plays a reporter in "Press Conference" and the bullied assistant in "Catastrophe". Ben Johnson is hilarious as Henri, the menacing executioner who longs to torture the truth out of Mary and is disappointed when she confesses quickly. He throws water in his two cohorts faces when they get out of control as well as throwing it in his own face, too. One of Ben's lines that resonate for today's society is "It may not be true but it sounds believable." His pratfalls and buffoonish behavior are fantastic. Ben also appears as a soldier in the two Pinter plays. Jim O'Brien plays the Priest who gets scared by Mary's antics and he declares her innocent to save his own hide. The Priest puts the blame on the drunken sot who accused her in the first place. Jim also plays the sympathetic role of the Father in "One for the Road" and a reporter in "Press Conference". David Rabinow plays Claude, the drunk who is Mary's accuser. He has a lengthy speech about seeing her in the woods and gets the crap beaten out of him by Mary and Henri. He also plays in soldier in the Pinter plays.

Fred who is also an actor at Trinity, directs his 3 plays, making them powerful and dramatic while showing off the acting chops of his performers. He blocks them beautifully, obtaining the frightening aspects of each and every movement. Tony Estrella is excellent as Nicholas, the control freak, tormenter in "One for the Road". He tortures Victor and his family with his lengthy questioning of them. Tony commands the stage with his acting prowess, scaring his victims and audience at the same time. He also plays a nosy reporter who offends the minister of culture and is a dynamo as the megalomaniacal director. Karen Carpenter handles the role of Gila, Victor's wife who gets raped and tortured by Nicholas. Her questioning scene is intense and well played. She plays a reporter in "Press Conference". Her son,Nicky is played by cute as a button blond haired, Damien Beecroft. (John McGowan shares the role at alternating performances.) Last but not least is veteran actor Sam Babbitt who plays the minister of culture who rules the country with an iron fist. His look is enough to make you shake in your boots. Sam is powerful as this hard as nails dictator. He also does a wonderful job, standing completely still on a pedestal in Beckett's show for 10 minutes, finally getting the last laugh at the end of the show. So for some dynamite shows which are thought provoking as well as demonstrating some powerful acting, be sure to catch these 4 one acts at Gamm Theatre.

"Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (25 January - 25 February)
GAMM THEATRE
172 Exchange Street, PAWTUCKET RI
1 (401)723-4266

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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