By Pauline Adamek
Craig Wright’s new play, “The Unseen,” is definitely not for the squeamish, nor the weak-hearted. An award-winning playwright (and creator of TV’s “Dirty Sexy Money”) Wright has turned his laser-intense view onto the dark depths of a hellish torture prison.
Also directed by Wright, this psychological thriller currently running at the Road Theatre Company in North Hollywood is about two prisoners (Matt Kirkwood and Darin Singleton) languishing in adjacent cells, having been incarcerated by a totalitarian regime. Within their Spartan concrete cells, the pair communicates with each other through the walls, trying to stay sane by trading stories of their daily interrogations and merciless torture at the hands of unknown captors, and clinging to shreds of hope by attempting to devise an escape plan. The comparisons are inescapable between this subject matter and the crimes against humanity that occurred at the USA’s Guantanamo Bay Military Detention Camp.
The puzzle of their inexplicable and enduring incarceration (years and years have passed in this hell hole) is further complicated with the introduction of a new prisoner who is placed in the cell between them. This person’s non-verbal communication (taps and scratches) only poses more questions than answers. Their petulantly childlike yet sadistic guard (Douglas Dickerman) seems to loathe his job as resident torturer as much as he relishes talking about the details of his gruesome duties. Apparently the miserable existence of his prisoners defines his own and causes him immeasurable stress and depression as he is drawn into their plight, while at the same time being the overlord of their excruciating torment. It’s existentialism at its most glib.
And it’s the guard’s speeches that will make your stomach churn and your face screw up with disgust. At first casual allusions to the smorgasbord of degrading torture the pair routinely endure are brief. Towards the end of this 90-minute, no-intermission play comes a ghastly speech where the guard describes in hideous detail a frenzied torture session that went too far. Add to that a soundtrack that frequently emits jarring blasts of loud horns and alarms to punctuate the dialogue, and you have a fairly tense night at the theatre.
Craig Wright previous hit play “Lady,” which was nominated for a Drama Desk Award 2009 for Outstanding Play, was also staged by the Road Theatre Company last year. I can’t tell you how many times during this play I wanted to be transported back in time.
The Road Theatre Company
5108 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Runs: through Saturday, Aug. 22
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Box Office: 866-811-4111
Check their website for **Pay-What-You-Can Nights**
Stars: Matt Kirkwood, Darin Singleton, Douglas Dickerman
Director: Craig Wright
Official Site: www.roadtheatre.org
[Pauline Adamek is a Hollywood-based film, theatre and food critic who files for “FilmInk Australia,” the “LA Daily News,” “Sun Community Newspapers” as well as various websites under the “nom du net” Max Million.]