Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) From the Deep is not about the war on terror. It’s not even about terrorists. It’s about two men attempting to do the best they can with the nasty cards they are dealt. In the realm in which we see them, there is only suffering or not suffering. So, they try to turn the moments in which they are not suffering into moments that are happy. Happiness becomes relative. So do stability and health. This production from Boston Public Works Theatre Co, is about Man’s capacity to understand existence within a capacity for pain.
Ilan (Charles Linshaw) and Andrew (Jeff Marcus) are held captive by unidentified terrorists. They are locked in a white room with antiquated media devices, strange tchotchkes, and writing materials. Occasionally they are beckoned to leave by the buzzing doors of mystery: two doors that blink and sound an alarm when the terrorists are ready to negotiate. Told through Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead-like mental challenges and focus games, they work to endure their environment and isolation. From the Deep is loosely based on the capture of Israeli POW, Gilad Shalit, and BU student, Jonathan Dailey. More info about Shalit and Dailey can be found here and here.
Linshaw and Marcus give exemplary performances. They play two men having an impossibly difficult time in circumstances so terrible that they are unaware of how near they are to oblivion. This production clearly took a lot of soul searching and it’s obvious from where the audience sits that these men put a lot of effort into their research. They have a natural professional chemistry.
FTD asks its audience to consider the greater human existence through the metaphor of involuntary confinement. The experiences of Ilan and Andrew can be interpreted as either figurative or literal. Either way, they are rats in a cage dissembling their existence as we watch. As metaphor, playwright Seinuk asks how Man copes with hardship of living. The white room is the mental space where all prisoners go to escape the reality of their torment. Taken literally, this play is about the potential of two men finding joy and purpose despite debilitating stressors.
Trigger warnings (The crew really pulled all the stops for this production): FTD is very good and for this reason those with sensitivity to triggers may decide to opt out. Choosing health over attendance is a logical choice.
Both characters are mentally and physically abused during the production. The tactics used to express this abuse is super effective. Triggers for violence and implied torture.
The pacing of the play is so dead steady that is appears that the tempo was purposefully set in order to prevent potential panic in the audience. The subject matter is presented by Seinuk and the actors almost casually. As if there weren’t anything to get excited about. Yet in a few chosen moments that we realize that both men are tigers stalking their cage. Their rage and fear are barely suppressed under a thin veneer of calm. The anxiety is contagious.
There are design ticks in the sound and set that could induce OCD distress. A persistent, literal clock tick is the play’s soundtrack. The otherworldly set is dressed in whites, beiges and tans that invoke heavy layers of dust and misuse.
Lastly, Jonathan Dailey met an untimely end in the Charles River. Marcus’s portrayal of Andrew incorporates elements of Dailey’s demise in horrific detail. In the words of one distressed audience member, “it’s messed up.”