It is not an easy thing to produce live theatre in Washington, DC – in fact it is a pretty dicey proposition. One of the hardest parts is finding the needed funds to pay the bills. Catalyst Theater Company has reduced prices at their Capitol Hill space to a ten dollar ticket for every performance. Why am I starting out a review talking about ticket prices? Catalyst and many other smaller companies put on quality productions on the tightest budgets. In the case of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, Catalyst has outdone themselves. I was amazed at the attention to detail in all aspects of the staging from the sounds of noisy pipes to the feel of the dark basement the hostages of this story are held in. The technical aspects of this play are so good that one completely forgets that it is a play – the story becomes a powerfully real example of strength of heart and mind.
A story about three men being held hostage in a basement somewhere in Lebanon, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me displays real emotion but it is not a realistic portrayal of hostage situations. What Catalyst has produced is a story about the bonds human beings develop in the worst of situations. feelings, emotions and strength of resolve take center stage over missing plot details that never surface. The three men, Adam from the United States, Michael from the UK and Edward from Ireland watch over each other and bond through harsh conditions as hostages but even the death of one of the men does not lessen their resolve. It is the power of human bonding that is staged and the emotional level is always at the forefront.
There are three actors in this production and their performances are terrific. Yes, the part of Adam (Christopher Janson) is a little under developed but the connections that are made and the emotions portrayed are distinctive and magical. Cecil Baldwin as Michael displays a range far beyond anything I have seen him accomplish in past performances and Dan Via as the quiet Irishman Edward is a bottle rocket waiting to explode, a jumble of emotional energy and quiet strength.
As mentioned before the sound design by Mark Anduss was simply brilliant, while the captors are never visible their presence is always felt through the noisy bangs and scraping sounds from above. One could feel Alexander Cooper’s dark dusty walls closing in as the play progressed while Jason Cowperthwaite’s lighting bathes the space in a cold haze that simulates the chilling reality of desperation.
As the play ends and Cecil Baldwin sits down to life as a hostage without a cell mate the real terror begins because you see, companionship is a bond that makes this life worth living. Catalyst’s sensitive telling of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me is something that is worth far more that they ask for at the door. Go and see this well produced play and like you would do in a fine restaurant – leave a sizeable tip for good service.