Sunday, August 31, 2014

Next in Line Productions Revives Someone Who'll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness

L-R: Austin Jones, John Garrett Greer, and Hardy Pinnell in SOMEONE WHO'LL WATCH OVER ME.
Next In Line Productions, a relatively new theatrical troupe, has just launched its inaugural production – an excellent revival of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness.  This is a fine production of which any long established off off Broadway theatrical company might well be proud and it is truly a remarkable accomplishment for such a newly formed group.

Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me was first produced in London’s West End in 1992 and was subsequently staged on Broadway where it ran for more than a year, receiving Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Actor.  It has been successfully revived several times since, both in London and in the US, and this latest revival - at the Gene Frankel Theatre on Bond Street in lower Manhattan – is well worth seeing.
 
This is the story of three men – an American, an Irishman, and an Englishman – who have been kidnapped separately in Lebanon by unknown captors but who were all brought to the same place and who now are all being held as prisoners in the same room.  In a way, reviving this play today may seem especially timely, in light of events in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza.  And so it is.  But in a larger sense, the Middle East today, while providing a backdrop for the play, is not really what this play is all about.  Rather, this is a classic rendition of man’s indomitable spirit, in the face of the inevitable despair he must feel in light of his own mortality and the incomprehensibility (if not outright meaninglessness) of the world.  Thus, the play is not so much an international geopolitical narrative as it is an existential exposition of man’s helplessness in the face of forces beyond his control, coupled with his fortitude in confronting them, much in the manner of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot or Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit.
 
Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me is a three-hander, featuring John Garrett Greer as Adam Canning, Hardy Pinnell as Edward Sheridan, and Austin Jones as Michael Watters.  All three are not only convincing but exceptionally accomplished in their respective roles: Greer is cool and self-controlled as Adam, an American doctor; Pinnell is much more volatile and belligerent as Edward, an Irish journalist; and Jones is effectively prissy and mildly paranoid as Michael, an English professor who can’t even fully accept that he is where he is.  Through it all, the three are chained to the walls of their prison (suggestive perhaps of Plato’s allusion to man’s limited perception of the world as being based erroneously only on the shadows cast on the walls of his cave rather than on true reality), somewhat limiting their physical mobility but not their imaginations.

And so, in the course of the play, the three play games, sing, act out their recollections of past events, compose letters that they know will never be posted, imbibe imaginary drinks, pretend to direct and film movies, and force themselves to laugh in the face of the horror confronting them, in sequences that range from the inane to the insane, with the line between the two increasingly blurred.  It is, in its way, theatre of the absurd or, as the characters themselves are wont to say: “Ridiculous.”
 
The final words in Samuel Beckett’s novel, The Unnamable, actually may say it all: “You must go on.  I can’t go on.  I’ll go on.”  And so they do.
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