By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Empty Room played to a near-empty room on opening night at Matthew Posey's funky Ochre House, the Fair Park storefront space where Posey lives and puts on small, strange shows. Written by, directed by and co-starring Dallas actor Kevin Grammer, the one-hour, two-scene play is an abstract meditation on the use of torture to extract confessions from suspected terrorists.
Two prisoners (Laurel Whitsett, Mitchell Parrack, both good actors), encased in muslin bags and blindfolded, hang suspended from hooks in a bare, six-sided room. They're cut down and questioned by a "doctor" (Grammer), who insists with a tight smile that they don't need lawyers and will be released if they cooperate. Soon, another man (Brian Witkowitcz) is thrown in with them. Is this trio of prisoners part of the 1960s Weather Underground? Or are they modern-day domestic terrorists who planned the bombing of a federal building?
Empty Room asks more questions than it gives answers, but with some polishing, it could be a little gem on the order of Sartre's No Exit. With hints of 1984 (dig those TV monitors above the stage that give a glimpse into another empty room where characters sometimes appear), the play has provocative things to say about homeland security and civil rights. What would you do under such treatment, save yourself or free an innocent friend?
Talk Radio continues through November 21 at Upstart Productions in The Green Zone. Call 214-321-0121.
Empty Room continues through November 21 at The Ochre House. Call 214-826-6273.
Ochre House is still finding its way as a home for cutting-edge theater. Original work like Empty Room needs to be encouraged and supported, if only so the rows of seats can be perceived not as half-empty but half-full.