nytheatre.com review by Amber Gallery
August 16, 2010
After seeing Terror Superhighway, it was no surprise to see that Bertolt Brecht's The Private Life of the Master Race among the past projects of Roust Theatre Company. Terror Superhighway dives head first into the murky waters of complex and charged political issues like terrorism, Big Brother, and the privacy levels of our internet activity. Director James Phillip Gates (also the artistic director of Roust) and playwright Kevin McHatten bring to light a terrifying and truly frustrating world where no one is safe and even the most unexpected person can be a suspect.
Jamison Parks is an ordinary, unassuming, ineffectual guy in his mid 30s. At the top of the play, we learn he's been waiting in this interrogation room for over two hours with no explanation as to why he's been brought in. Gates makes the astute choice to have Jamison already waiting on the bare stage at the opening of the house. This immediately immerses us in his experience. As the audience settles in and quiets down, and the repetitive, bass-heavy music continues to drone, the mood is set and we're all waiting—with Jamison.
Enter Agents Mane and Coleman, and the questioning begins. Jamison is subjected to both interrogators' unique styles, and he is kept in check physically by the silent Agent Lester, of whose looming presence we are periodically reminded. McHatten skillfully unravels the circumstances and the reasons Jamison has been brought in for questioning. McHatten peels back the layer after layer of a lead character who is complex and sympathetic. He makes it nearly impossible not to identify with him on some level or another, which is key to the play's success.
McHatten's dialogue is intelligent and insightful, though overly cerebral and preachy at times—particularly in the last section, which seemed a bit misplaced. Although all the actors turn in great work, some of the casting choices felt odd—Agent Lester, played by Jemil Oz, who seems to be the muscle behind the interrogation, looks more like a model than a hulking presence. And Gerard Joseph seems a little young as the lead interrogator, Agent Coleman. Regardless, all are strong, skilled performers with Tyler Moss the standout as Jamison, giving a nicely realized and, at times, vulnerable performance. Tracy Hostmyer does fine work as the duplicitous Agent Mane.
Terror Superhighway's smart writing, skilled cast, and astute direction are rounded out by strong elements like Travis Sawyer's lighting design and Troy Ray's costumes. I am certain this polished and well-thought-out piece of theatre will turn out to be one of the highlights of FringeNYC this year.