Someone Who'll Watch Over Me

reviewed by Lara Hughes (for The Tech), May 28, 1998

Do not miss the opportunity to experience TACIT's current production, Someone to Watch Over Me. "Experience" is the key word here, because the superb acting, seamless direction, well-written script, and sheer intensity of the material, combined with the realism of the venue, allow for a nearly total suspension of disbelief.

Someone to Watch Over Me is the story of three men who are being held hostage in a stark cell in Lebanon for months on end. Adam (undergrad Brett Tolman), an American and the first to be taken hostage, is a psychiatrist who is in Lebanon to study the effects of war on children. Edward (grad James Gleeson) is an Irish journalist who has been his cellmate for several months when the story begins. They are later joined by Michael (alum Allen Corcorran), an English widower who had just arrived in Lebanon to teach at a local university. The enemy is referred to but not seen, a faceless group that still manages to be a constant haunting presence evident in the thoughts and actions of the hostages.

Total immersion in the atmosphere of the play happens before the show even begins. The play is held underground, in SAC 50, land of steam tunnels and work lights, graffiti and concrete. The venue is perfect; it all feels very real. Quarters are cramped, the actors are actually chained to the stark concrete walls, and exposed piping lends atmosphere and serves as a very effective prop throughout.

All of this atmosphere would do nothing however, if the performance itself did not deliver. It does. The mood of the play is incredibly dynamic. The men go through the entire gambit of emotions: despair, hope, boredom, regret, need, fear, aggression. They experience hatred of enemy, self and each other. They even manage to have some fun, such as it is, now and again. Moods strike and overwhelm and wane again quite suddenly. Alliances form and dissolve; one moment it's one against two, then one against himself, then three against the common enemy, then a different two against one. This could easily cause spotty and superficial performances, with actors playing one episode, then the next, with no clear progression or sense of continuity. These three actors have all painted very real people though, with complete personalities and tremendous depth, and their sudden changes in temperament and alliance become utterly understandable, utterly realistic, utterly absorbing. Brett Tolman does a very good job of showing the layers of thought going on behind his American bravado, particularly in the suppressed but nearly uncontrollable fear which has him literally climbing the walls. James Gleeson's Ed runs through so many mood swings it's dizzying, but they are all seamless. His complete emotional breakdown is performed so honestly, it's heart-wrenching. Allen Corcorran in turn does a wonderful job of showing the subtle changes in character which occur in those first few months of captivity.

Above all, this play will make you think. It will affect you. I urge you to experience it for yourself.