The Farm: Paranoia and Uncertainty

Photo Credit: Boston Playwrights' Theatre

The Farm by Walt McGough, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 9/29/11-10/23/11,

Reviewed by Anthony Geehan

(Boston, MA) There is a very particular fear that runs through our country these days, unique to the new century. The threat of fascist world conquerors and nuclear holocaust has been stripped away for a much more mundane, yet equally terrifying threat. Extremist mass murders, with no concept of mercy or fear of death, dressed as everyday citizens are what our new public eye has focused on as the danger of our time. A danger that has caused many everyday citizens to rethink the people they see on the street as potential threats to their lives and national security. It is that paranoia, honed into a profession view point, that makes up the mind set of special agents of the C.I.A along with other bodies of authority, whose job it is to make the life and death decisions every day between who is an enemy and who is a civilian. So enters the mind set of Special Agent Finn, the central focus of Walt McGough’s The Farm.

The Farm is a one act, three person, 90 minute play based around a psychiatric interview between Agent Finn (Dale Place) and the C.I.A. appointed psychiatrist Parker (Lindsey McWhorter). The purpose of the interview is to unveil the violent circumstances surrounding Agent Finn’s retirement from the C.I.A. and his last mission. If Parker is able to find Finn’s answers acceptable, he will be able to go to “The Farm”, a sort of government funded reclamation center for retired agents who are not yet ready to enter normal society. Though Parker is a highly charismatic and intelligent character, his demeanor and psyche come unhinged when a physical manifestation of his past guilt, known only as “The Enemy” (Nael Nacer), begins to plague Parker during the interview.

The Farm is a play based around paranoia and uncertainty, a motif that is set up from first moment the actors walk on stage. There is no warning or introduction to the start of the play, Finn and Parker simply walk onto stage admits the audience talking. Finn begins to examine the room’s furniture and decor while Parker sits at the desk waiting for Finn to follow suit. Just as Finn sits down there is a black out on the stage, and the audience is taken from getting nothing but visual cues to getting nothing but darkness and dialogue. The first light that is seen after that is a dim cigarette lighter, which reveals Finn being loomed over by the haunting figure “The Enemy”. So we are given the introduction to every character’s demeanor, role, and position of power in the story before the first minute of the play is over, a great achievement for a play with a limited time frame to work in.

The actors for the play are fantastic, though the roles that they have play with a strange kind of chemistry. While Parker has to keep a steady professional demeanor about her and “The Enemy” remains a menacing sort of silent throughout most of the play, the emotional swaying and empathy that the scene evokes comes from Agent Finn almost exclusively. Luckily Dale Place carries this weight with fantastic, skits of frantic emotional changes from hard nosed, angry Irish agent to emotionally distressed rambling mad man and back again. This is not to take away anything from the abilities of both Lindsey McWhorter and Nael Nacer, whose stone wall deliverance is used to lay the setting of an agency that takes life and death as part of statcical analysis and the menacing, un-answering specter of guilt that comes to its employees.

If a fault has to be found with the play, it is only that because is a send up to the spy genre, it does have some predictable beats and twists that are prominent in most espionage stories. This is however over shadowed greatly by the many other themes that McGough has woven into the story and Gammons has brought out in its production. The topics presented in The Farm range from the changing of the United States in the new century, struggles against and for authority, life’s potential to be wasted or preserved, all the way to the delicacy of the human mind and conscience. Anyone who is a fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother’s Night, Cameron Crow’s Vanilla Sky, or Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart would be well advised to go see The Farm.

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