By Christopher Durang
Directed by Adam Zahler
Presented by Titanic Theatre Company
Review by Kitty Drexel
M for Mature. Actors occasionally appear in their underoos.
(Watertown) The attack on the two towers in NYC and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 changed the way the United States viewed itself forever. Before that day, many citizens viewed North America as the most powerful entity in the world. After 9/11, we recognized our vulnerability as a country. Almost everyone was looking for answers. There were many who turned to The Arts for catharsis. These same people reacted in anger when artists turned back to them for compassion. The Arts were supposed to provide answers. While coping with the same shock, we artists didn’t know what to do either.
It’s been 12 years since the attacks and the US is still divided. Our media has moved on to bigger and newer things. But our artists are still processing the events and asking questions. The media has given the American people plenty of reasons to explain why Taliban members attacked. Thank goodness for The Arts. Playwright Christopher Durang hasn’t given up on understanding the U.S.’s response to the attacks of 9/11. Rather than focus on the “badness” of Ossama Bin Laden*, Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them ponders the American people’s decade-long reaction from the perspective of western, 20/20 hindsight. He peppers his absurdist play with Dadaism and panic. The script is a sweet bouquet of human experience and dramatic flair.
Level-headed Felicity wakes to find herself married to Zamir. Zamir has undefined origins, abusive tendencies and no family to speak of. He is volatile and strangely affectionate. Felicity’s parents saddle opposite sides of the emotional spectrum without directly addressing her woes: Dad is eternally overreacting with violence; Mom prays that if she avoids the situation hard enough, it’ll go away. Assisted by characters beyond the scope of sanity, Felicity is left to negotiate her new relationship and determine if she married a terrorist.
The performance presented by Titanic Theatre Company is flawless. The cast puts on a great show. Caroline Rose Markham and Alexander Morgan have intense chemistry as the two leads. Shelley Brown delivers poignant one-liners as the mother, Luella. Jeff Gill, the dad, is a believably nutty gun enthusiast. Jonathan Barron (Rev. Mike) is a mellow man of God cum porn administrator. Alisha Jansky (Hildegarde) is a clueless yet devout spy. Brett Milanowski stole the stage as the Narrator, et al. This tight cast made the erratic actions of Torture is Wrong believable and its demented characters lovable.
If one were desperate to find fault, they would find it in the transitions. The set is simple but requires some extended manipulation between scenes. The energy of the tech crew differs enough from the cast that the momentum of the show is dropped. Luckily, it is picked up immediately at the start of each new scene by the cast. It’s a small difference but enough to cause discontinuity in the performance.
This show is for intelligent creatures unafraid of exploration or self-reflection. This is not a show for the gung-ho nationalist that refuses to see homegrown terrorism for what it is (Planned Parenthood bombings, anyone?). It is not for those die-hard citizens who believe without a doubt that the US the responded to the 2001 terrorist attacks with 100% respect and proper authority (we didn’t. Heck, some of our numbers still blame anything remotely Muslim or Of-Color for the attacks). It is definitely not for victim-blamers who think women are responsible for the abuse they receive from all outlets. This type of behavior is displayed for what it is in Why Torture is Wrong, and The People Who Love Them. If one is easily offended by a metaphorical mirror being held up to the populace’s actions, one should stay at home. Or not. More likely, the easily offended are the ones who need to attend more than those who aren’t. Regardless, Torture is Wrong is excellent theatre.
*As a general rule, murdering people and destroying things that aren’t yours is wrong. Duh.