nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
August 19, 2009
Stress Positions, a new play by Daniel Sweren-Becker, is a suspenseful, indicting look at the U.S. Military and the use of torture. While the play and the ideas it raises are powerful, it feels underdeveloped.
It is the story of a young soldier, Terrence Wilkes, who wishes to become part of the prestigious Special Operations Force, Delta. As part of his training, he must undergo a ten-day simulation during which time a superior officer will try to break him, to get him to reveal information about his unit and commanding officer. Enter John Sullivan, a single-minded Colonel determined to break Terrence, showing no conscience or remorse in turning off the cameras and inflicting pain on the handcuffed Wilkes and without any regard for the 10-day limit.
Scenes flip back and forth between Terrence and John in the interrogation cell and between John and Buzz Peterson, John's colleague. The story jumps suspensefully through time, fitfully unveiling the events of the past few weeks and what instigated them. Unfortunately, the plot is more simplistic than one would hope and we end up figuring it out before we are supposed to.
Actor Duane Cooper gives a tour-de-force performance, muscles rippling, as our strong, determined hero, Terrence Wilkes. Jed Dickson and Matt Walker, as John and Buzz, respectively, give strong, realistic performances, however their parts are more one-sided and blatantly flawed. Director Robin A. Paterson keeps the action moving quickly and smoothly, with the rhythm and feel of a suspense-action film.
Stress Positions is a penetrating look at torture—showing that the guilt we can place on ourselves can be far more potent and scarring than any physical pain inflicted. It is a blatant indictment of our country's policies regarding torture—a cautionary tale about how once we cross the line and condone any sort of torture, everything becomes fair game.