Monday, November 17, 2008
CLOSET LAND, from Molotov Theatre
On a cold, windy November evening, this play is a great choice.
CLOSET LAND, by Radha Bharadwaj, is an intense two-person play. In an unnamed country being ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship, a nameless woman (played by Jessica Hanson) is under arrest. She's a children's book author, and is being accused of hiding inflammatory political messages in her books, to indoctrinate the young and alert adults to resistance activities. Her interrogator (Alex Zavistovich) plays all sorts of games with her, physically and mentally, in order to get her to sign a confession. She maintains her innocence even as dark secrets are revealed...and the interrogator may be more than he seems.
It's a chilling, effective play. The torture scenes are handled with a certain amount of subtlety, with cuts to black or sound effects standing in for various events, although some are pretty much up-front. And, depending on your frame of mind, there's a certain ambiguity. Is it all really happening? Is it all in her mind? Is the interrogator really who he claims to be? Or is he only using his knowledge of her past to trick her? Is she really a subversive? Or is she being turned into a subversive by the interrogator?
The acting is uniformly good. Jessica Hansen brings a lot of determination and vulnerability to her role as the author, while Alex Zavistovich exudes a bland, jovial complacency...until the mask comes off.
Performed in the back room of 1409 Playbill Cafe (1409 14th St NW, Washington DC), this is subtler in its approach to violence than some other Molotov fare, and also more overtly political. Still, seek it out. Molotov Theatre is waiting for you.