The Culture Project
By PETER MORRIS
The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St., NYC
April 1 through May 25, 2006
Directed by JASON MOORE
Scenic Design RICHARD HOOVER
Lighting Design GARIN MARSCHALL
Costume Design MICHELLE R. PHILLIPS
Production Stage Manager THOMAS J. GATES
Press Representative OPR/ORIGLIO PUBLIC RELATIONS
Lee Pace – English Boy
Katherine Moennig – American Girl
Fact inspires fiction yet again in GUARDIANS, a two-character monologue play that won praise and the Fringe First Award when it premiered at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A fictional account of the Abu Ghraib/Lynndie England prison torture scandal juxtaposed against the subsequent publication of fake torture photographs in Britain’s The Daily Mirror, the piece is full of poignancy, humor and troubling questions.
On one side, we have English Boy, an aspiring journalist with a taste for unfettered sadism and an unapologetic plan for success. One the other end of GUARDIANS’ dueling monologues we meet American Girl, a disgraced solider. Having joined the army to find a way out of her small town, and relatively clueless about the conflict in Iraq, she becomes a party to torture and humiliation. Her downfall inspires English Boy, who has tired of writing photo captions and has happened upon a way to satisfy a lover’s masochistic fantasy while generating another image-driven scandal.
In the course of GUARDIANS, both Boy and Girl wax political and get in a couple of zingers aimed at Bush and Blair that on occasion garnered applause from the audience. What Boy and Girl have in common as characters, and I suppose as human beings, is the ability to justify their individual actions, and to an extent they have a point. Soldiers are supposed to follow orders, and the public has an appetite for scandal and extreme journalism, for lack of a better word. Do I think that just following orders or giving the public what it wants justify the actions? No, I don’t, but as dramatic debate presented through characters, the arguments become almost three dimensional.
In terms of production, Jason Moore’s smooth direction keeps GUARDIANS moving along. The set and lighting designs are stark and moody. Both Boy and Girl come dressed for the occasion. He wears a suit, and she either an orange prison jumpsuit or her army uniform. Lee Pace is both engaging and smarmy as the English Boy with spin for sale, and Katherine Moennig’s American Girl is a cagey blend of hometown girl naivety and bad ass brutality spoken in soft tones.
GUARDIANS is well written and thought provoking. Not likely to change anyone’s minds, it is more successful as an examination of the world we live in, asking the audience to make sense of a reality in which people say and do things largely because they can, and when they get caught, put the blame back on society, the rest of us. What happened to accountability and responsibility, and how far is too far to go?
- Kessa De Santis -