Someone Who'll Watch Over Me
Justice Theater Project @ St. Mary's School
Through March 1
Someone Who'll Watch Over Me is the most famous of Irish playwright Frank McGuinness' oeuvre, and the Justice Theater Project's production showcases clever directing by Carnessa Ottelin and the well-cast, dynamic trio of performers as an American doctor, an Irish journalist and an English professor, all held hostage for obscure reasons in Beirut.
Amid the unbearable circumstance of captivity in a derelict basement, with the men chained to a wall, the play achieves sanity and dignity for each man via their humanity toward each other. At the same time, however, McGuinness' script explores the meaning of nationalism, physical and moral strength and the value of being alive. Using humor, outbursts, mania and transitions appropriately rapid and nonsensical in this situation of ineluctable misfortune—much to the credit of Ottelin—the play is filled with both tender, joyful moments and deep sadness.
Not long into Act I, Edward, an Irishman (a boisterous David Henderson, who occasionally channels Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow), and the American Adam (a role intensified by Byron Jennings' concentration) are joined by Michael, the Englishman (played by the delightfully believable Ryan Brock). Initially, Michael is wholly naïve about the gravity of the situation, but the two veterans teach their new cellmate the rules of the ad hoc society they have created inside their cell. From there, the three men embark together through jokes, arguing, challenges, reveals and games—including a re-enactment of Virginia Wade's 1977 Wimbledon victory and a flying tour over Europe á la Chitty Chitty Bang Bang—to transform their situation.
The play's fluidity is occasionally interrupted by clumsy moments—on the part of the actors, the stage direction, or both—that deflate the drama. Still, by the final curtain, the audience has fallen in love with these men. As Ella Fitzgerald finally delivers the eponymous Gershwin song, the house is ready and willing to accept the unironic poetry of the moment and to fully appreciate the song's lament.