A Short Play About Globalization

Workhaus Collective; at the Playwrights' Center through September 23; 612.332.7481

Dominic Orlando's daring and idea-packed new play is indeed about globalization. Fortunately, it is several orders of magnitude more insightful and entertaining than the latest screed by Thomas Friedman. The action opens in a Mexican border town, where FBI agent Mark (Randy Reyes) is being interrogated by a hostile uniformed officer (Sara Richardson). It turns out Mark is looking for his missing sister, who disappeared while researching a story about the hundreds of women who have gone missing or been murdered along the U.S.-Mexican border. From the onset Richardson lays a scary, insinuating power trip on Reyes, though any notion that this will be an interrogation drama goes out the window in the next scene, when Richardson is transformed into a lab coat-wearing technician. By now Reyes is hooked up to an I.V., his character so under siege from drugs, questioning, and sensory discombobulation that he is unable to remember his own name (if these methods of duress bring to mind Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, it's no accident). After an interlude in which Mark is convinced he's Fox Mulder looking for his alien-abducted sister, he reappears, now named Frisbee and working as a dazed servant for an S&M-loving corporate player (Richardson, by now demonstrating that she can shift gears with greater ease than a semi-truck driver). One twist later and Frisbee is appearing on American Idol, performing a cover of Styx's "Come Sail Away." Reyes throws himself into the performance with chilling emotion, funny and cheesy, until you remember that his character is the subject of mind control and untold abuse. Orlando is playing around with heady concepts throughout, not the least of which is the idea that we live in a world in which the soul can be destroyed, reshaped, and sold as just another commodity. The real trick here is how the script and the performances tease out all manner of alarming subtexts without lapsing into a shred of didacticism. The ending is all sweetness with a whiff of bitter almonds, a fitting conclusion to one of the most original nights onstage in recent memory.

 
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