Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Hostage (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

The song says "Everything old is new again," and for those of us who remember the Iran Hostage Crisis, those lyrics hit home.  Way back in the Carter administration, the 1970s equivalent of the Arab Spring saw the overthrow of the Shah which spiraled into the storming of the US embassy in Tehran, capital of the nation.  Passions, especially fear and rage, ran high.  Amidst all this a single mid-western mother (Tracie Lockwood) insisted on doing something human.  Her son (Zachary Grant)was one of the hostages, a Marine guard, and she traveled all the way to Tehran just for the chance to see him.

She succeeded. 

This true incident became the seed from which Michelle Kholos Brooks wrote Hostage, now playing at the Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz.  And in that once sentence above--she succeeded--lies the crux of this piece.  Nearly no one thought she would, and far too many blamed her furiously when she did.  Protesters outside her some threw rocks, for example.  Her ex-husband (Christopher Hoffman)  openly wondered, even realizing it was a crazy idea, if she had become an Iranian spy!  Many others, of course, also insisted her stunt had accomplished nothing.

Well, she didn't free her son.  But then, was that her plan?  No.  As the play makes abundantly clear her only hope was to see him, talk to him, perhaps persuade his captors to treat him a little better.  Amid the storm of her fear, her love and her indignation she achieves something more.  She finds herself talking and reacting to the Iranians, eventually seeing them as people who lead lives of which she knew nothing.  What little she learns opens her eyes to say the least.  Her reaction to the straightforward hopes and dreams of "Tehran Mary" (Vaneh Assadourian), who proves to be determined but hardly cruel, is like a slow unwinding.  Likewise learning the main Guard (Satiar Pourvasei) also has--or had--a son, cracks open her heart.

By then, one expects such a thing.  She proved her compassion and courage already, had she not?  Why else do such a thing?  Another exchange--one of many, ranging from heart-wrenching to almost hilarious--shows her fundamentally fair streak.  Asking if holding her son hostage was really necessary, in the face of all the trials and troubles of this foreign land, one of the captors simply answers "Yes."  She doesn't argue.  Instead, she contemplates the dreadful possibility of that answer being true.  She never says this in words, but her silence does, even if she never discusses it directly, not even to her current husband (Jack Clinton) who supports her to the hilt.

Yet it remains, in the air, heard but unheard, never stated but understood by the audience.  Which marks how well director Elina de Santos guided this script into life.  Most especially, in this tale of ordinary people finding themselves at the center of a military/political storm--on all sides--we feel all them seek simply to do the best they can, while subject to influences beyond their control.  That, not coincidentally, is the definition of "Hostage." So this play and production offers one possible insight we may not relish--who among us is not a hostage to a world and circumstances we did not choose, but must live with?

Hostage runs Saturdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 2pm through July 22, 2018 at the Skylight Theatre at 1816 1/2 North Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027.


No comments: