Well known for his political and social satire, playwright Christopher Durang is at it again with “Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them”. Like the unwieldy title, this new work at the Public Theater takes up a litany of topical issues from terrorism, American militarism and spousal abuse, to suburban life, Hooters (the restaurant), Looney Tunes and Jane Fonda.
Keeping all of this together requires some ingenuity. So when all else fails, Durang has his central character, Felicity, played by Laura Benanti take charge of the rewrites. If you didn’t have enough of the play on the first go around, you get to watch the pivotal scenes again as Felicity revisits her story until she arrives ultimately, at a happy ending.
The play opens when our central character wakes up in a hotel with an eye-popping gaze, astonished by the man who is sleeping next to her. How she found herself in this situation and how to extricate herself from the man who now proves to be her husband, involves a circuitous plot and some predictable albeit really strange characters.
In addition to the offensive and violence-prone Zamir, her new husband played by a devilishly good-looking Amir Arison, there’s Felicity’s father, played by Richard Poe. Leonard greets the newlyweds with a rifle in his hands, and secretly fancies himself a spy for a shadow government whose mission it is to wipe out terrorism. Kristine Nielsen makes a hilarious, comedic turn as the soap opera version of an ignored housewife, so totally absorbed in herself and the Broadway matinees she attends, that her daughter’s cry for help goes unheard. Ironically, her incessant conversation offers some real commentary on the American theater.
In lesser, but equally flamboyant roles, Audrie Neenan plays Leonard’s scout and wannabee mistress and David Aaron Baker proves utterly mercurial in a range of characters including a spy who belts out a series of cartoon characters as if he were suffering from Tourette Syndrome. All of this goes on while they are torturing the alleged terrorist Zamir, who is really nothing more than a greedy, exploitative, unemployed immigrant.
As you can see, Durang has a brilliant sense of gallows humor, but the narrative of this new play is way too scattered. With his comedic arsenal aimed at every conceivable aspect of American society and culture, this play, directed by Nicholas Martin, simply lacks focus.
By: Isa Goldberg
Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People who Love Them
425 Lafayette Street
New York,, NY 10003
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