By Marcina Zaccaria
During the Iraq war, people were transfixed to CNN, watching the impossibility of Americans suffering abroad. Remembered now as a tragic chapter during the Bush administration, the war in Iraq wasn’t just about oil or bloodshed. With politics being suspect and many vying for the story, the time period lends itself to stories filled with drama. It is in this world where Heads, a play by E.M. Lewis, lives.
Nothing feels canned about this New York production at The Beckett Theatre. In fact, the producers at CCT (in Association with The Sacred Heart University Theatre Arts Program), have gone out of their way to reveal a gritty, desolate world. The lives of an American engineer, a British Embassy employee, a Network journalist, and a freelance photographer intersect in this intense drama. Heads was first shown at The Blank Theatre in Hollywood, CA in 2007, but nothing is glossy about the 2015 NYC production.
Trapped in one room, and left to the mercy of captors, the hostages recall their home lives with family members. They practice yoga and calisthenics, coping with the boredom, sensing that harm that could come to them at any time. After six months of being confined, British journalist Kim Martin-Cotton (Moon for the Misbegotten, Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino) and Photographer Harold Wolfe, played by David Dotterer, sit in their cell. The actors pace in a square, defining their living quarters. Heads defines not only what we hate about war, but also what we tolerate in confinement. It’s also a difficult time for a photojournalist who sells pictures to the CIA, and a journalist who explains the virtues of his profession. The side-by-side stories reveal the toughness of war and the necessity of survival.
Laura Savia does a fine job directing this play. The moments were tense and compelling, with clear movement and quick impulses. Visceral acting makes it to the stage scene by scene and, though it’s mostly an actor’s play, great choices were also made with scenic and lighting design. Sacred Heart University students (in the Theatre Arts undergraduate degree program) lend their skills to this production. Set Designer Daniel Murphy and Light Designer Sarah Jaquith bring out the steely, muted tones in the flats behind the actors. Makeup Designers Chris Facenda and Megan Garofalo aren’t afraid to show the gore, creating bloody designs that show markings on the face.
If the production fails at all, it fails at keeping the stage too spare, and not going a step deeper in revealing the intersection of the relationships of all four characters. The drama explodes often enough, though, and this production is worth seeing.
Heads was performed at The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, and will continue for a limited run until September 20 at 410 West 42nd Street. Tickets are available through Telecharge at www.telecharge.com
Hostage Crisis – Heads At The Beckett Theatre
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Photos: Gwendolyn Mileti