On August 13, Outré Theatre Company and Lord & Taylor of Mizner Park are joining up to bring you a night of music, fashion, and elegance, all to benefit Outré as we begin our fourth season! Attendees will be treated to musical theatre entertainment from Outré, a fashion show featuring Lord & Taylor’s fall lineup, champagne and noshes, as well as a discounted shopping pass! Tickets are only $25, and there will be only 50 tickets sold. To purchase your tickets to this elegant benefit, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 954.300.2149. With only 50 tickets available, space is extremely limited!
by Christine Dolen
All the buzz in New York theater this season has been about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop Hamilton, the scorching hot hit about the United States’ first treasury secretary, which will land on Broadway in mid-July after its sold-out run at the Public Theater.
But before Hamilton, in 2010, the Public sent another mash-up of 21st century music and early American history to Broadway: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
Fort Lauderdale’s Outré Theatre Company has brought Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman’s emo-style musical to the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The pumped-up show about a divisive president — his historical rep, the musical argues, runs the gamut from great leader to perpetrator of genocide — adds to a spring surge in intriguing productions in a county that hasn’t been as hospitable to theater as Miami-Dade or Palm Beach. But as the surge demonstrates, Broward theater is on the upswing.
With echoes of Spring Awakening and American Idiot, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson offers an in-your-face, anachronistic yet resonant take on America’s seventh president.
The score, performed by musical director-keyboard player Kristen Long (who also sings beautifully) with Wayne Rediker on guitar, Martha Spangler on bass and Walt Brewer on percussion, presents Jackson as a rock-star military leader and politician (Rock Star is one of the songs). The haunting Ten Little Indians suggests the ruin of Native American lives, with plenty of blame going to the territory-acquiring Jackson — who, as the show argues, put “the ‘man’ in ‘Manifest Destiny.’” The music thunders and softens repeatedly through the course of the show, and it’s all impressively sung.
Outré and director Skye Whitcomb include a full page of warnings in the show’s program, for good reason. Bloody Bloody contains profanity (some defacing portraits on the set), offensive language, sexual innuendo and stinging political satire that will remind audiences of just how little down-and-dirty politics have changed from Jackson’s day to the nasty, paralyzing present. The show is a wild, pointedly provocative ride, and those who like their entertainment pleasantly inoffensive shouldn’t think about hopping aboard.
Robert Johnston plays Jackson with an emo broodiness mixed with volatility and a populist appeal. He bonds with Kaitlyn O’Neill as Rachel, Jackson’s controversial wife (she wasn’t actually divorced when they first married), through the song Illness as Metaphor, and O’Neill has a powerful song about political sacrifice in The Great Compromise (though its fleeting reference to the Jacksons’ slave owning is a jarring reminder of that particular presidential fact).
Rick Peña as Henry Clay, Conor Walton as a lollipop-licking John Quincy Adams, Geoff Short as John C. Calhoun, Michael Mena as James Monroe and Noah Levine as Martin Van Buren deftly ride the satirical waves in their roles. Mena also plays Black Fox, symbol of Jackson’s treatment of native Americans. Jennipher Murphy has a kooky, surprising role as a historian lecturing about Jackson. Elvin Negron, Jordana Forrest, Christina Groom and Erica Mendez amplify the show’s vocal power and, along with young Leo Valentine Kaplan as Jackson’s adopted son Lyncoya, go full out with its brashness.
The set, costumes and choreography, all by Sabrina Lynn Gore, are of a creatively anachronistic piece with a musical that has its 19th century characters using cellphones, ordering pizza and using street language. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson takes plenty of liberties. But a stodgy history lesson it is not.
by Bill Hirschman
When critics write that they can’t wait to see a full production of a musical viewed in a concert version/tryout, as we did in 2013 about Outré Theatre Company’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,the truth is that we hold our breath wondering whether the reality will match expectations.
Well, no need to fear here. With bracing anger, profuse profanity and biting satire that is more slashing than surgical, this edition ofBloody will not to be everyone’s taste but it is more assured and more easily understood than the admirable but messy concert version we saw earlier.
Ostensibly a biography of our seventh president, the satire is a punkish Emo take on this country’s bottomless hubristic pursuit of Manifest Destiny via a genocidal campaign against the American Indians. It draws parallels to broader modern American know-nothing arrogance exemplified by, but not limited to, the George W. Bush Administration and the rise of the Tea Party. By reimagining Jackson as a jingoistic not-too-bright rock star, it depicts politicians as shallow as celebrities for a mob that demands substance from neither.
The show is no kinder to the populace than the politicians. The voters are ignorant sheep led wherever a demagogue wants to take them. Even when Jackson deigns to asks the people’s opinion, they have no idea what issues he’s polling them about.
Staged as sort of a small town high school history pageant, the style is intentionally sledgehammer broad in every category from the melodramatic acting to the Green Day brand of music.
Much of the humor is beyond sophomoric; it’s intentionally dumber than a Saturday Night Live skit. Faced with the red tape of the bureaucracy, Jackson proclaims, “I’m federal Metamucil; I’m here to unclog the system.” Similarly, the punkish costume design gave Jackson a Bowie knife in a large scabbard located precisely where a codpiece might end up and for good measure, he jiggled his hips on occasion to underscore the point. Somehow, that excess doesn’t quite go over the top in a production where “the top” is located somewhere in the ionosphere.
But mostly, Bloody it’s about how History is horsepucky. In that intentionally lampoonish broad approach, authors Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman seem to say that history is so perverted by lies and rationalizations that it doesn’t deserve to be depicted seriously.
The earlier tryout benefited this iteration with insights and lessons learned. Artistic Director Skye Whitcomb and Assistant Director Sabrina Lynn Gore have located the precise gonzo groove the work demands for much of the evening and yet smoothly change gears when the horrid truth of what Jackson has wrought finally comes clear even to him -– and to those in the audience who see tragic parallels to the current socio-political scene.
They and their cast have tweaked the script even with a reference at Sunday’s matinee that Game of Thrones would be broadcast that night.
To be fair, some folks may feel a bit burned out that the overall nose-thumbing vibe is really just a couple of wry jokes played out over and over for about two hours. But others will savor each thrust of the saber.
The focal point was Robert Johnston’s portrayal of the arrogant, dimwitted Jackson. Johnston, who was the naked victim in Zoetic Stage’s Clark Gable Slept Here and the hero in High Fidelity, has enough charisma and rock swagger to make Jackson almost likable in his simultaneous self-absorption and insatiable need for adoration. He starts out with a boyish face leavened with a three day-growth of beard. But as Jackson discovers the pragmatic requirements of running a government and the compromises requiring selling one’s soul, Johnston depicts the war between Jackson’s troubled conscience and his blithe rejection of any transitory qualms.
The rest of the 12 cast members slipped in and out of characters that encompassed textbook names like Henry Clay and Martin Van Buren plus a kind of Greek chorus. Standouts included Kaitlyn O’Neill as Jackson’s wife Rachel, Michael Mena as his Indian ally Black Fox and Conor Walton as a hilarious dazed and brainless John Quincy Adams. The ensemble of chameleons included Christina Groom, Elvin Negron, Erica Mendez, Rick Pena, Geoff Short, Noah Levine, Jordana Forrest, Jennipher Murphy and Leo Valentine Kaplan.
Musical director/keyboardist Kristen Long led the rock band of Wayne Rediker, Martha Spangler and Walt Brewer. She also pinch-hit as a sometime narrator and sang one of the atypically lovely ballads, “Second Nature.”
This is the second show that Outré, formerly performing at Mizner Park, has mounted in its new home in the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which has a bit of a shallow stage. Outre has wisely extended the stage and added a runway into the auditorium for the actors to invade the audience’s space. Actors make entrances and exits through the audience and might stop off at some patrons’ tables for a chat. A major improvement in the new home is the sound quality; at Mizner Park, the lyrics were often unintelligible.
One last time, there is something to offend almost everyone, the music is aimed at a younger demographic and it even runs a tad long. But for those whose preference run more to Rent thanMamma Mia, this is your acidic cup of tea.
by Mary Damiano
Anyone who goes to see BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON expecting a bio-musical about our seventh president is in for a rude awakening.
The musical plays fast and loose with facts, painting Jackson as a sexy, populist rock star of politics, known for killing Indians and making a point of offending as many of what he considered the elitists of his day. Frontiersman, statesman, soldier, president—the Andrew Jackson portrayed in BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON is all that and much more.
Outré Theatre Company presented a staged concert version in 2013; now they’re back with the fully produced musical at Broward Center’s New River Abdo Room.
Director Skye Whitcomb has assembled several of the same actors as the concert two years ago. Robert Johnston returns as Andrew Jackson, as does Kaitlyn O’Neill as his beloved wife Rachel, Conor Walton as John Quincy Adams, Michael Mena as Jackson’s friend Black Fox and James Monroe, and Jennipher Murphy as The Storyteller.
The book by Alex Timbers is written as an extended skit with modern references and jokes, and dialogue that lends itself to intentionally bad acting. This goes perfectly with the rock music and lyrics byMichael Friedman, whose score is both catchy and ominous, especially on “Ten Little Indians” performed by Erica Mendez while Jackson moves several native tribes from their lands either by negotiation or force.
BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON shows how Jackson evolved from a simple country boy who fought for his country during the Revolutionary War to the man who lost the love of his life due to his own ambition. Jackson’s relationship with Rachel is at the heart of this story or any story about Jackson—his deep love for his wife humanizes him when he goes on the rampage against the Spanish or the British or the Indians or the politicians or anyone else who crosses him.
Johnston is every inch the sexy rock star—physically and vocally—that the creators envisioned when they wrote this version of Jackson. O’Neill is winsome and straight-talking as Rachel, a woman who simply wants her husband by her side. Her full silky voice elevates several songs, including “The Great Compromise”. Walton delivers another hilarious performance as the lollipop-licking, overgrown man-child John Quincy Adams. Mena’s Black Fox is intense and greatly contributes to the tension in the story.
The ensemble cast, which includes Christina Groom, Noah Levine, Jordana Forest, Geoff Short, Elvin Negron, Leo Valentine Kaplan and Rick Pena, is obviously having a great time. Whitcomb’s inventive staging includes a runway, which is often used for comic effect and to increase the intimacy between the cast and the audience. The cast soars vocally, and has fun with Sabrina Lynn Gore’s choreography. They often spill over from the stage, fanning out through the crowd and even sitting down and enjoying a drink at a table in the audience.
Kristen Long, who plays keyboards leads the band, also contributes as The Storyteller for part of the show and sings the lilting “Second Nature.”
Say what you will about Andrew Jackson—some believe him to be one of the greatest presidents we’ve had, responsible for adding more land to the country than any other, while some believe him to be a power-hungry, grudge-holding maniac responsible for genocide of Native Americans. What comes across most in this version is that Jackson was a man of contradictions. Outré Theatre Company’s production of BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON is rollicking and raucous, and definitely rocks the house.
by JW Arnold
Don’t say you weren’t warned. Outre Theatre’s production of “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Broward Center contains: strobing lights, profanity, offensive language, political satire, sexual innuendo, sexual out-uendo, taxidermy, corsets, children with tomahawks, bottled water, weasel coats, defaced portraits, twinkies, fake mustaches and a vibraslap. And then there’s the question of revisionist history.
Plenty of modern references pepper the show, which explores Jackson’s youth, rise to prominence as an “Indian fighter” and hero of the Battle of New Orleans, and later, as the populist president who railed against the Washington aristocracy.The rollicking rock musical about our seventh president, a big hit Off Broadway that fizzled on the big, big money stage on Broadway, is the perfect vehicle for Outre and its leadership, artistic director Skye Whitcomb and assistant Sabrina Lynn Gore.
In many ways, the show offers especially relevant commentary today as the public discourse focuses on the one percent and the seeming political power of the monied elite a century and a half later. Stymied by a belligerent Congress, Jackson resorted to sweeping executive actions similar to those taken by President Obama, only to be labeled a tyrant. The book by Alex Timbers and score by Michael Friedman also takes aim at homosexuals, liberals, environmentalists and the other frequent targets of modern conservatives.
Robert Johnston offers a breakout performance, transforming Jackson into an Emo rock star, dramatically delivering the internal conflict the president faced while soaring vocally in numbers such as “I’m Not that Guy” and “I’m So that Guy.” Between the theatrical and musical demands, it’s a tough role to pull off, but Johnston conquers, guyliner and all.
The strong ensemble cast features many familiar young performers, all with strong voices, covering a number of roles: Kaitlyn O’Neill (Rachel Jackson), Rick Pena (Henry Clay), Conor Walton (John Quincy Adams) and Noah Levine (Martin Van Buren). Jennifer Murphy is the lesbian, wheelchair-bound storyteller, a Wellesley grad student who wrote her thesis about Jackson and often gets sidetracked with her personal historical recollections.
The players are accompanied by an accomplished rock band led by Kristen Long, who did triple duty as musical director, keyboardist and the fill-in for the storyteller after Jackson pushes her off a cliff. Yes, a cliff. (We’re thinking that didn’t really happen, either.)
The Broward Center’s Abdo New River Room is an appropriate space for the single set production, a graffiti-covered Antebellum sitting room designed by Gore. She also created the ‘80s punk-inspired costumes that manage never to stray too far from the actual fashions of the early-19th century. And, while the performances were polished and delivered with verve, some of the technical aspects still need some work, lighting and sound, in particular. No doubt the kinks will get worked out over the two-week run.
In many ways, history is still deciding Jackson’s legacy. Did the so-called Trail of Tears make him a visionary who simply enacted manifest destiny or the genocidal murderer of tens of thousands of Native Americans forced to march west?
History is often revisionist and attitudes evolve — or devolve. Just ask the Texas state textbook commission. Regardless, Outre’s production of “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson” delivers a thought-provoking performance despite the frequent f-bombs, sexual innuendo, sexual out-uendo, taxidermy and the lot.
The Outré Theatre Company is proud to announce the 2015/16 Season Auditions for its fourth season, “The Power of Woman”! Auditions will be held by appointment only on May 3 and 4 from 6 pm until 10 pm, with callbacks on May 5 and May 10. Auditions and callbacks will be held at Outré’s new home at the Broward Center in the Abdo New River Room. Actors interested in auditioning should submit electronic copy of headshot and resume, as well as which role(s) they are interested in, via email to email@example.com.
The following roles are available unless otherwise noted:
The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, adapted by Robert David MacDonald and Jeremy Sams
Directed by Skye Whitcomb
Runs August 28 – September 13, 2015
Rehearsals begin mid-July 2015.
Macheath – Male, 25-35. The underworld’s most infamous criminal, charismatic and sadistic. Tenor.
Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum – Male, 40-60. The “King of the Beggars,” a cunning and vicious organized crime boss. Baritone.
Celia Peachum – Female, 35-55. The strong-willed matriarch of an organized crime family. Mezzo-soprano.
Polly Peachum – Female, 18-25. The Peachums’ daughter, a bit sheltered but learning fast. Soprano.
Jackie “Tiger” Brown – Male, 30-45. The chief of police and Macheath’s former Army buddy. Baritone.
Lucy Brown – Female, 18-25. Tiger’s daughter, sensual and smart. Soprano.
Jenny – Female, 25-35. Prostitute and former lover of Macheath’s. Mezzo-soprano.
Ensemble (3 men, 3 women) – All ages. Play a variety of roles, including gang members, prostitutes, and constables.
Medea by Euripides
Directed by Skye Whitcomb
Runs March 11-27, 2016
Rehearsals begin mid-February 2016
Medea – CAST. Auditionees will be considered as possible replacements. Female, 30-45. A strong woman consumed by grief and rage as her husband leaves her and her children for a younger woman.
Jason – Male, 35-50. A strong politician, ex-military, who sees political advantage in leaving his wife for a younger woman.
Creon – Male, 40-60. A powerful, well-connected man who approves of Jason’s maneuvering. Jason’s future father-in-law.
Nurse – Female, 30-50. Nanny to Medea and Jason’s children. She herself was left by her husband earlier in life.
Tutor – Male, any age. Tutor to Jason and Medea’s children, he is also a spy for Jason who mistrusts his wife.
Chorus – Six women who represent different aspects of Medea’s psyche. They also step in as various characters.
Goblin Market by Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon, adapted from the poem by Christina Rossetti
Directed by Sabrina Lynn Gore
Runs April 8-10, 2016
Rehearsals begin late March 2016
Lizzie – Female, 25-40. A Victorian wife and mother who has returned to her childhood home. Strong and loving. Operatic mezzo-soprano.
Laura – Female, 20-35. Lizzie’s younger sister. A wife and mother herself, she is more impetuous and less proper than her sister. Operatic mezzo-soprano.
Outré Theatre Company Announces
“The Power of Woman”
The Outré Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Skye Whitcomb and Managing Director Sabrina Lynn Gore are pleased to announce Outré’s fourth season, and its first full season at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. This season will be built around “The Power of Woman,” with productions focusing on the strength, seduction, and experiences of women. The season includes an Outré twist on a classic musical, a modern adaptation of a timeless Greek tragedy, and a punk rock musical spanning the globe, as well as Outré’s signature concert series. All performances will be at the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Outré begins the 2015/16 “Power of Woman” season with the Brecht and Weill satirical musical The Threepenny Opera, the revolutionary play and original ‘mock-pera’ that introduced “epic theatre” to the masses and inspired such musicals as Cabaret and Chicago with its sensual, jazz-drenched melodies and gritty characters. Lending its signature style to this modern classic, Outré is pleased to showcase the dark underworld of London, where Mack the Knife, Polly Peachum, and Pirate Jenny hold sway over the bands of cutthroats, prostitutes, and miscreants. The Threepenny Opera will perform August 28 through September 13, 2015, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm.
Following The Threepenny Opera, Outré turns its attention to the ancient story of a woman with nothing left to lose, Euripides’ tragedy Medea. Reimagined in a modern context, Medea tells us of a woman spurned by her husband for a younger woman, and the lengths to which despair and rage can push us. Medea will perform March 11 through March 27, 2016, with Friday and Saturday night performances at 8 pm and Sunday performances at 2 pm.
In April, Outré brings back its signature concert series with Goblin Market, adapted by Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon from the poem by Christina Rossetti. This two-woman musical follows two grown sisters as they return to their childhood home, where the goblins and faeries of their adolescence beckon them to leave the proper Victorian world behind and revel in the pleasures of the senses. Praised by critics and audiences, Goblin Market runs for a single weekend, April 8 through April 10, 2016, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm.
June sees Outré return to the heady punk world of 1977, with a full production of Rooms: a rock romance by Paul Scott Goodman and Miriam Gordon. Presented as a concert production during the 2014/15 season, Sabrina Lynn Gore again directs Noah Levine and Erica Mendez in this tale of two young people struggling against the pressures of fame. Dealing with alcoholism, bulimia and unplanned pregnancy, they strive to find themselves and each other. Rooms plays June 10 through June 26, 2016, with performances at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 pm on Sundays.
In addition to its normal season, Outré is also thrilled to announce a single-weekend return of Thrill Me by Stephen Dolginoff! Conor Walton and Mike Westrich return to the stage to reprise their roles as Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, the infamous thrill killers of the early twentieth century. Hailed as a triumphant production by critics and audiences, winner of the 2014 BroadwayWorld Awards for Best Musical, Best Ensemble, and Best Lighting Design, and nominated for two Carbonell Awards, Thrill Me will return December 11 through December 13, 2015, with only three performances: Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm.
Outré is proud to call the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts its new home. The Abdo New River Room features a fresh, modern menu of delectable choices with table service offered 90 minutes prior to performances and during intermission for shows that take place in the Abdo New River Room. Please note: arrive at least 15 minutes prior to curtain to ensure table service. No table service is available after the show. Tickets to performances in the Abdo New River Room do not include food or beverages unless otherwise noted.
Season tickets and individual show tickets will be available soon by visiting the Broward Center of the Performing Arts’ website, www.browardcenter.org, or by calling 954-462-0222.
The Outré Theatre Company warmly invites you to join us as we celebrate the return of local professional theatre to Fort Lauderdale! We hope you will join us at our Benefit Gallery Showing at Blue Fine Art Gallery, located at 713A East Las Olas Boulevard, on November 14, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
That evening, 20% of your purchase of exquisite, contemporary art from the Blue Fine Art Gallery will be donated to Outré, South Florida’s fastest-growing, award-winning, professional, non-profit theatre company. We cannot thank the Blue Fine Art Gallery enough for their generosity in hosting this fundraising event.
We will be offering complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres, as well as entertaining you with live music by Outré’s featured local musical theatre artists. Cocktail attire is suggested, but black tie is also welcome.
Outré Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Skye Whitcomb and Managing Director Sabrina Gore will also be on hand to discuss our upcoming production of William Shakespeare’s Othello, opening on December 5, 2014, at our new home at the newly renovated Adbo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. They will also be previewing our new Black Box Club, which will be launching on opening night of Othello!
Outré has so much to be thankful for this season, including your generous support! Please join Outré Theatre Company for our Benefit at Blue Gallery, on November 14, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
Outré’s Nightmarish “Back of the Throat” Exposes How Post 9/11 Paranoia Allows Abuses
by Bill Hirschman
The temptation is to describe Yussef el Guindi’s nightmarish Back of the Throat as Kafkaesque or satirical absurdism worthy of Lewis Carroll as Outré Theatre Company depicts an America gone mad.
But it’s not. That’s the real horror. The extremities unfolding before the audience are a logical if artistically exaggerated extrapolation of the paranoia and xenophobia unleashed in tandem against Arab-Americans after 9/11. It’s naturalism not surrealism.
Far more than a rant about this country’s excesses after the Twin Towers tragedy, Back of the Throat is a universal cautionary tale of how fear can trump our ideals, even our humanity in the interest of expedient self-defense.
And Outré, operating on a shoestring and specializing in edgy work with a social message, has outdone itself with the best offering of its three-year history – a production so powerful that the opening night audience just sat stunned in their seats after the lights came up.
Other than theatrically staged flashbacks, Back of the Throat is constructed as a real-time 85-minute interrogation of a naturalized Arab-American suspected for some undisclosed reason of complicity in a recent terrorist attack.
Braced in his own apartment after giving permission to two investigators to look around, the hapless innocent Khaled is at first only uneasy at their enigmatic questions.
Khaled is told in a genial but insinuating tone, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.” But the clear message is that he does have something to worry about. The fact that this aphorism is a self-fulfilling double bind means even his mounting anxiety is “evidence” against him.
But genteel inquiries give way to physical violence and shattering humiliation. The noose tightens until he realizes that he is predestined by the feds’ rationalized guilty-until-proven-innocent logic in extremis.
The performances under the sure guidance of artistic director Skye Whitcomb are perhaps the best we’ve seen from everyone involved, especially Rayner G. Garranchan as Khaled, and the always superb Jim Gibbons as Bartlett, the iron fist in a velvet glove interrogator, and Tim Gore as his terrifyingly implacable and methodical partner Carl.
What is especially unnerving about the public servants created by Gibbons and Gore is that while you cannot excuse their abuses for five seconds, the internal logic of their thinking charted by el Guindi is unassailably consistent. Therefore, it has a weird integrity. Right is on their side and there is not a milli-second’s doubt in their mind; that empowers them to violate every American and Judeo-Christian tenet in the book.
That also allows them to indulge in the most backwards thinking processes possible. As Carl gets ready to beat viciously kick Khaled, he says calmly, almost regretfully, “This will take away from your humanity, which is not good for us.” and later, “If you’re innocent, why did I kick you?”
El Guindi, an insightful playwright from Seattle, is not out to demonize the institutions with a one-dimensional screed. The play is an object lesson in the consequences when society’s tacit approval or even indifference enables abuses that counter what we profess to believe in.
In fact, an interesting resonance arises when the interrogators have jettisoned their humanity with almost the same ends-justify-the-means we-have-been-driven-to-this logic that the terrorists themselves use – each extremism engendering the other in a symbiotic dance of death.
El Guindi takes it one step further. The play ends with an eloquent speech by the dead 9/11 plotter who has appeared as a mostly silent ghost or in flashbacks. In a frighteningly calm and measured performance by Freddy Valle, the terrorist explains his rationale in a way that would be seductively persuasive if not for the horror of what we know he plans to wreak.
The playwright carefully constructed this dance with ever-morphing tempos and Whitcomb has matched it step for step. His verbal and physical staging is appropriately fluid. Whitcomb and assistant director Sabrina Lynn Gore have not paced the journey in the sense of it being fast or slow, so much as tightening and loosening and then tightening again the feeling of encroaching doom. With his actors, he has created tones that range from pleasant to threatening. The evening feels like a blind man desperately trying to find an escape from in an ever shifting labyrinth. He also moves the action cinematically between the interrogation and flashback scenes with very different witnesses, all inhabited convincingly by the wonderful Faiza Cherie.
So many of the twists of the garrote are subtle but clear. During the opening scene, Bartlett exudes faux cordial banter with Khaled, “apologizing” for being intrusive even as they blithely violate his space. Carl methodically searches the apartment, paying special attention to the bookcase. Carl removes volume after volume as if he has discovered clues; Khaled becomes increasingly concerned that the titles can be misconstrued. Carl assures him not to worry; they will be out of here in five minutes. Shortly thereafter, with the confiscated books accumulating, Carl takes off his jacket and rolls up his shirt sleeves. Chilling.
Later, an alarmed Khaled, fearing that he is being railroaded, says to the staring men, “I’d like you to leave.” The men don’t even blink. Then, after a second or two of silence, Bartlett says with feigned sympathy, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It’s now clear that the point of no return has been crossed. But in retrospect, Khaled and we realize that line was crossed when he agreed to cooperate with them. And as we learn later in flashbacks of possible witnesses against him, that line was crossed long before the men arrived.
Occasionally, the lawmen explode in invective and violence – although you wonder if that isn’t just another calculated use of a tack in the interrogators’ toolbox. Gibbons in particular has an unnerving venting speech about how immigrants have the unmitigated gall to invoke Constitutional rights when they are destroying this country—even as he acknowledges that he is the proud great-grandson of immigrant. “Yesterday, it was the Irish and the Poles; tomorrow, it might be the Dutch,” he says.
Garranchan creates a protagonist so breathtakingly ordinary that we cannot help but identify with him. He starts a bit apprehensive as his apartment is inspected. But bit by bit, with Whitcomb’s guidance, Garranchan ramps up the anxiety with a literally open-mouthed expression of amazement and fear as his visitors ignore questions about what he is being accused of. Garranchan’s Khaled hollowly pushes back, invoking his rights, already knowing that these men have no intention of honoring them. By the time Khaled gets angry, it is way too late.
But the play’s success is rooted in the measured performances of Gibbons and Gore as the bureaucratic functionaries who have heard every lie so often, dealt with traitors for so long and who are so convinced of their righteousness that their terrible pursuit is conducted with a surgeon’s dispassion, later revealed to harbor festering rage. These are not slobbering sadistic monsters – which is what makes them all the more frightening.
Gibbons has been one of the region’s best and underused actors for a decade and a half, notable for his honey smooth Louisiana accent with a bourbon kick. While he has played similarly menacing roles (e.g. the policeman in Infinite Abyss’ Project’s The Pillowman in 2011, his talent has just deepened over time. Tall, courtly with piercing blue eyes, Gibbons smoothly changes gears emotionally.
Gore seems transplanted out of a police detective bullpen somewhere. Taciturn and preternaturally all business, even his explosions of violence seem calculated. He seems resentful that this ungrateful slime has forced him to these extremes – although he has no compunction about it at all. The two actor/characters have a nice chemistry of long-time partners, especially the way they exchange glances when Khaled says something neutral that they take as confirmation of their suspicions.
Outré is moving later this season to the Broward Center’s Abdo New River Room, but it has been given temporary quarters at the tiny Sol Children’s Theatre in a strip shopping center in Boca Raton. The space is intimate, ratcheting up the claustrophobic feeling. But it also has a limited number of seats and Outré has had to cut back its schedule, so get your tickets now.