Someone Who'll Watch Over Me

reviewed by Mary Cogswell-Baum for the Sierra Madre News, May 28, 1998

You go to the California edge of the Caltech campus and walk down a driveway (a sign tells you which one). Masked figures with guns usher you down long halls and into a cold dark cellar where a shadowy draped woman gruffly suggests you should watch your head. Ducking under conduits, you are led to a small concrete room. You take a chair and the lights go slowly out.

When they come on, two men are doing pushups and arguing about it, their voices echoing off the hard walls, and then you notice that they are each chained to the wall by an ankle.

This is the atmospheric beginning of "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me", by Frank McGuinness, the new TACIT production. The two men are Adam, an American and Edward, an Irishman, and they are both randomly chosen captives of Lebanese terrorists, held hostage for some mysterious purpose. They are not physically abused, they are adequately fed, but they are kept completely out of contact with the outside world. They have been left a Bible and a copy of the Koran. After a bit they are joined by Michael, an Englishman. The play consists of their exploration of each other's minds, of their developing and changing relationships and their desperate attempts to hold on to their sanity, using imagination, reminiscence, historic stereotypes, anything to keep alert over a period of months. At times they even find an infectious humor in their predicament. they come to a fierce dependence on each other and an emotional intimacy that is one of the healthier ways that human beings adapt to stress.

The actors, all veterans of other TACIT productions, are nothing short of amazing. James Gleeson makes the volatile Edward completely convincing, Brett Tolman is the impatient and frustrated Adam, and Alan Corcoran shows the withdrawn and reticent Michael melting, as do the others, into the basic human being, with the basic fears, dignity and courage that make them brothers.

Director Shirley Marneus finds an ingenious variety of action for her restricted characters in their cramped setting. She has always been challenged by the variety of playing spaces offered by Caltech's varied architecture and she has given this play a chilling reality.