Jay Clift, Ashley O'Connell and Kirk Smith in the Dancing Monkey Presents production of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.
Jay Clift, Ashley O'Connell and Kirk Smith in the Dancing Monkey Presents production of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.

The real test for a successful performance of Frank McGuinness’s Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me comes at the end of act one and the Dancing Monkey Presents production currently on stage at Vancouver’s Renegade Studios delivers.

[pullquote]The trio of actors (Ashley O’Connell, Jay Clift and Kirk Smith) is uniformly terrific, although it is O’Connell as the Irishman Edward who manages to capture our attention from the start and never lets us go. [/pullquote]After spending an hour with the trio of prisoners locked away in some unknown Lebanese prison cell, we must decide if what we have seen is compelling enough for us to care about its outcome.  This production easily passes that litmus test thanks to some terrific performances and a nicely balanced presentation that places as much emphasis on the men keeping themselves sane, as it does in presenting its deeper exploration of life and death.

Chained to the walls of a small prison somewhere in Lebanon sometime in the 80s, a trio of men is unsure why they have been imprisoned.  One is an American doctor, one an Irish journalist and one a British teacher and like the real-life hostages of the time upon which McGuiness’s story is inspired, they are simple pawns in a terrorist plot against the West.

The trio of actors (Ashley O’Connell, Jay Clift and Kirk Smith) is uniformly terrific, although it is O’Connell as the Irishman Edward who manages to capture our attention from the start and never lets us go.  By the time his fate comes in act two O’Connell has ensured that we have become so attached to the man that it was hard to hold back tears.

Kirk Smith as the uptight Brit with an obsession for pear flans starts off as if he just stepped out of a David Lean movie, but gradually relaxes into the role.  Following his great performance in Bug earlier this year, Jay Clift proves his program biography as “rising star” is indeed true.

Director Julie McIsaac helps to ensure the scenes in which the trio keeps themselves sane with their imagination don’t get repetitive.  Where these scenes of imaginary movie-making, letter-writing, cocktails and tennis matches could easily devolve into just more of the same, here they are distinct enough and so full of energy that they are equally successful.  McIsaac keeps things simple with the audience facing the actors on two sides, effectively trapping the trio between the walls of the stage and the seats.  A single bare bulb hangs from the roof as a constant reminder of why these men must continually look within to keep their sanity.

Written over twenty years ago, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me still resonates, and while the terrorist’s methods may have changed over the years they remain a sad indictment of certain segments of humanity.

By Frank McGuinness.  Directed by Julie McIsaac.  A Dancing Monkey Presents production.  Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me continues at Renegade Studios through March 23, 2014.  

Visit http://www.dancingmonkeypresents.com for tickets and information.

Vancouver Presents

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