Solitary Confinement, Torture, and Madness: Plan B Theatre Company’s Nothing Personal

NOTHING PERSONAL

I didn’t think I could feel more opposed to solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, or waterboarding than I already do, then I saw Eric Samuelsen’s Nothing Personal at Plan B Theatre Company. Plan B dedicated the whole season to one playwright this year, and while that sounds risky, they are off to a great start with the season opener. Nothing Personal is an 80-minute, three person play that is loosely based on the Whitewater scandal of the Clinton Administration. Susan (April Fossen) pleads for her freedom after being jailed for a contempt charge, and you are pulled into a narrative so perplexing and so infuriating, that I hated Kenneth (Kirt Bateman) within the first ten minutes of the show.

Though based on Susan McDougal and Kenneth Starr, Samuelsen takes you on a contemporary journey through American headlines about “enhanced interrogation” tactics in a post 9-11 American. You watch as a woman is confined to a permeable space, a place where she can’t escape the gaze of her prosecutor, Kenneth. She is shackled and chained, left for days, wondering what is happening, and you are right there with her. April Fossen pulls you into Susan’s perspective. You begin to wonder what is real. Is the Matron (the prison guard played by Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin) real? At times you aren’t sure because she doesn’t speak except for an outburst of speaking in tongues that is so surreal you feel total-body discomfort.

The poignant performances in Nothing Personal are some of the best I’ve seen from Plan B actors. When I left the theater the only words I could get out were, “That was a lot to chew on.” You leave full of philosophical quandaries, opinions, and a distaste for the direction of our country, but all with a sense of idealism– knowing that the people in the theatre, and the mind behind the play want the status quo to change.

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The minimalist staging feels anything but with the sound work of Cheryl Cluff, because there is a constant stream of prison sounds, slaughterhouse noise, and hardcore rock music. The sound design is expertly complemented by the lighting design of Jesse Portillo. We feel the tunnel vision of characters with lighting that suffocates at times, and tortures at others. This expertly crafted script comes together from all directions under the work of Jerry Rapier, Plan B’s Producing Director. Nothing Personal is nothing short of hard-hitting, and it is worth every minute you spend with Susan, Kenneth, and the Matron.

Nothing Personal runs through November 3rd, and is selling-out quickly. Buy your tickets before it is too late to go on this wild ride.

 

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