Theater of Politics

The Post is reporting on the possible paradigm shift in the Administration regarding the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. Which is timely, considering for my last minute theater experiment on Friday night I saw Studio Theater’s production of the play “Guantanamo.”

Studio’s new expanded facilities are exceptional. “Guantanamo” is playing in the upstairs space of the Milton Theater, with an improved reception/bar area, and the overall building modernization, including a new entrance on the 14th Street side, is an exciting development for the neighborhood.

I don’t usually enjoy so-called “political” theater, of either side of the aisle, as more often than not it can be bombastic and one-sided. “Guantanamo” avoided this pitfall for me by being a well-crafted and intelligent piece of documentary theater. The text is taken strictly from the real-life testimony of detainees, their families, and others. By weaving these words together – sometimes incendiary, sometimes heartwrenching – a living breathing testament to man’s inhumanity to man is formed in all its complexity.

The pacing could use some tightening, but I’ve no doubt that it will once beyond opening jitters, given director Serge Seiden’s impressive track record and the commitment of the excellent ensemble cast. Possibly the most effective stage business is that upon the audience entering the theater, the prisoners are already there. And they are still there when you leave – no curtain call, which perfectly highlights the limbo of their situation, and also reinforces that this is not an ego piece.

Whatever your politics or your view on this policy, I think there’s something almost sacred about being able to see this kind of theater in the nation’s capital. We have that right, that freedom, to watch and challenge, whether we agree or not. If we ever are unable to see theater like “Gauntanamo”… well, I can’t imagine it. And I don’t want to.

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