Chicago Theater Review: GUARDIANS (Mary-Arrchie)

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by Lawrence Bommer on September 11, 2015

in Theater-Chicago

THEY DO IT ALL FOR US

14 years ago, terror became a date in the calendar. “9/11” casts an ever darker shadow onto the future. It also remains the latest official loss of American innocence. (Happily, we suffer from such convenient cultural amnesia that we’ll regain it soon enough.) Lest we forget, here’s a two-person drama from British playwright Peter Morris. Guardians boldly opens the 30th and, regrettably, final season of Mary-Arrchie Theatre and its Angel Island home (soon to become condos). Set in the year after the Americans dragged the Brits into the quagmire of Iraq, Guardians, a very ironic title, asks: Who will guard the guardians?

Jaci Entwisle stars in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of GUARDIANS by Peter Morris, directed by Arianna Soloway. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

With sardonic savagery and no wasted subtlety, Morris uses two scandals in 2004 to question not just the establishment’s ethics (as if that’s subject to debate) but our credulity at hoping that security can be bought at the price of freedom. It was clear from the start: Predatory lies about WMD sought to excuse a shocking and awful invasion delivering regime change rather than reform. Quickly and inevitably, the prosecution of an unnecessary war put a premium on misrepresentation from the media as much as the military.

Jaci Entwisle and Adam Soule in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of GUARDIANS by Peter Morris, directed by Arianna Soloway. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Presenting alternating monologues with interlocking duplicities, Morris’s two pawns represent the press and the Pentagon. As they prove the power of pictures to provoke, they also chart a weird and very British link between pornographic images and protest photos. (It’s not accidental that Morris compares Osama Bin Laden’s sexual hijinks in London discos in the 1980s with the equally salacious “torture snapshots” that American soldiers indulged in a generation later.)

Jaci Entwisle in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of GUARDIANS by Peter Morris, directed by Arianna Soloway. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

With a treacherously accurate British accent, Adam Soule depicts Morris’s unprincipled “English Boy.” This smiling devil is in fact a Rupert Murdoch-like tabloid “journalist” whose rapacious ambition crowns him with a column by the end of his testimony. Formerly liberal, now conveniently conservative, this scribe (who’s plied his venal trade for The Economist and The Guardian) is a gay man into S&M, a Machiavellian trickster who uses his exotic boyfriend to perpetrate a hoax. (His revealing expression for exploiting someone is to “turn him over.”) Capitalizing on the notorious Polaroids of water-boarding, torture, and humiliations at the Abu Ghraib prison, he fakes a British version in which English soldiers supposedly inflict their own bondage and domination games on supposed suspects swept off the streets.

Adam Soule and Jaci Entwisle in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of GUARDIANS by Peter Morris, directed by Arianna Soloway. Photo by Emily Schwartz

A master of deceit, deniability and manipulating factoids, our war-mongering English Boy escapes a whipping, and profits from his perfidy. His blatantly obvious lesson: It pays to preach power to truth rather than to speak truth to power. Still, even in a play that preaches to the converted as glibly as Guardians, E.B.’s corruption comes fast and furious. He’s too reflexively rotten to offer edifying or cautionary warnings, just the cheap relief that we’re not him.

Adam Soule & Jaci Entwisle in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of GUARDIANS by Peter Morris, directed by Arianna Soloway. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Equally easily evil is Jaci Entwisle as “American Girl,” a clueless female G.I. from West Virginia who also connects porn with pictures. Now court-martialed for her participation in the very actual Abu Ghraib cruelties, she spews forth xenophobic justifications for abusing her “brown” victims, much as she was by misogynistic boyfriends and relatives. She sees herself as much victim as villain. The real grand inquisitors are the chicken hawks and neo-con pseudo-warriors who used the paranoia of the Patriot Act to steal our nation from us. She calls herself a scapegoat for unindicted war criminals of the Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Blair, Powell and Bush persusasions.

Adam Soule and Jaci Entwisle in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of GUARDIANS by Peter Morris, directed by Arianna Soloway. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Guardians does right to stir up trouble, reprising some nasty and unfinished business. But its false equivalency of fake and real pictures of crimes against humanity is too calculating to be as clever as Morris imagines. (Methinks he doth protest too much.) No question, the 21st century has seen liberty cheapened: It’s become a pretext for influence peddlers–in print or in power–to grab even more illegitimate authority. Despite a distractingly loud air conditioning unit, over some 100 minutes Soule and Entwisle work hard to go wrong. Sadly Morris’s “cock up” continues today. Our guardians have never made us less safe.

Jaci Entwisle in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of GUARDIANS by Peter Morris, directed by Arianna Soloway. Photo by Emily Schwartz

photos by Emily Schwartz

Guardians
Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.
Angel Island, 735 W. Sheridan Rd
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 7
ends on October 18, 2015
for tickets, call 773.871.0442 or visit www.maryarrchie.com

for info on more Chicago Theater, visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

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