Hooters, annulment, paranoia and the fourth wall
UPPER JAY – Some matches are made in heaven; others are made under the auspices of deception.
The play “Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them,” which opens tonight at the Upper Jay Arts Center in Upper Jay, is a story by Christopher Durang about people who share blatant contrasts and unlikely similarities.
The conflict begins immediately when the main character, Felicity, meets a man named Zamir (Dylan Duffy) at a Hooters restaurant. Later that night she is coerced into marrying Zamir while under the influence of alcohol and strong sedatives.
Felicity, played by Olivia Zeis, wakes up the next morning, and the fuzzy events of the previous night begin to sharpen. There was a bar, a pornographer priest reading vows and, now, a strange man lying next to her in bed. Felicity soon realizes her new hubby is a lazy, manipulative control freak who has no desire to work for a living. She, on the other hand, is level headed with a balanced outlook on life.
Horrified, Felicity immediately wants out, so she seeks the help of her family members, only to find that they each have their own agenda.
“Felicity is the one who the audience takes cues from on how they should react to all of these crazy people,” Zeis said. “She’s kind of the driving force because she wants to get her marriage annulled. She seeks help from all of these different people, but she can’t find it. She kind of figures out she needs to do it herself.”
In a world of overtly Americanized patriotism, Felicity soon learns that anger, paranoia and fear – of terrorists, big government and loss of freedom – are easier to come by than the help she so desperately seeks.
Felicity’s mother steps in and attempts to juggle the madness that quickly unfolds between Felicity, Zamir and Felicity’s gun-wielding father, Leonard (Terrance Young), who is immediately suspicious of his daughter’s new beau. His suspicions are warranted, but the problem is, it isn’t the infelicitous circumstances of the marriage that bother him.
Instead, Leonard suspects foul play in the form of terrorism and covert government surveillance.
From there, it only gets worse. Paranoia consumes Leonard, who desperately attempts to control the situation, not unlike his new son-in-law, who also strives to control his surroundings.
The two are so similar it seems they have to hate each other, and that dynamic carries the play through its hilarious and often chaotic moments of slapstick social commentary and themes that are as loaded as a firearm clip. Nothing is taboo in “Why Torture is Wrong,” and no topic is deemed undeserving of a well-placed stab.
“It’s going to be pretty weird and crazy, but hilarious,” Zeis said. “There are some heavy topics, and we’re definitely making light of those topics, but it was important for us from the beginning to set it off via the music, the lighting and the set. This is a comedy, so don’t feel bad laughing. I kind of think there’s something in there to offend everyone.”
Throughout the play Felicity also hears a voice, which serves as a strange mix of narrator and conscience. Toward the end of the performance she begins conversing with the voice, and finally decides to end the insanity by becoming the director of the play.
The imaginary fourth wall – that between the audience and the stage – is shattered, and sanity is only achieved once chaos has fully been unleashed. It’s a fitting ending to a story that relies on the similar nature of conflicting norms to show that people aren’t so different after all.