Villanova Theatre presents play for Irish festival

“Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me,” performed at the Villanova Theatre as part of the Irish Festival, is a play about time, patience and loyalty – perhaps not the sexiest qualities, but the play grows on you as you begin to care about the characters and their plight. The story is about three men from three different countries being held hostage during the Lebanese Civil War. They do not know who has captured them, nor do they know where they are. They only know that they are chained to a wall, that they get food and water everyday, and that they only have each other.

The play opens in darkness with Ella Fitzgerald’s “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” until the lights show a man humming to the song. Darkness continues, but the song along with sounds of chains ensues until the lights return showing the American joined by another man. The audience later finds out that Adam, an American, was captured first and imprisoned for three months before Edward, an Irishman, joins him. Although this fact is not clear at first, the use of light to denote time and the sound of chains to create intrigue work well. It represents an effective way of introducing the setting and obtaining the audience’s interest.

The setting stays the same throughout the entire play. The stage has three poles, and the three men are chained to them. The minimal set immediately creates the tone of the play: bored, lonely and contained. The man who occupies the third pole is Michael from England. The three men must use each other to survive their kidnapping.

From the beginning, Adam and Edward have a connection that goes beyond the fact that they were both kidnapped in Lebanon. Adam is a know-it-all of sorts, yet he seems to be attracted to the feisty, Irish Edward. Likewise, Edward, who finds it difficult to shut up, respects Adam. The audience can see this respect when Adam questions him curtly about his wife, and Edward responds with civility. When Michael, the Englishman, enters the play, Edward taunts and provokes him. Michael aptly perceives a sense of fear in Edward. Although Michael, most recently had his freedom violated, emanates fear and anxiousness, he is also the one who calls Edward and Adam out on their fear. They are all threatened by one another, yet they depend on each other not only to survive but also to retain their sanity.

They grow to respect one another and their respective countries, notwithstanding reasonable outbursts of frustration and apparent craziness. The acting, because there is little else, has to be good for this play to work, and it is very good. The direction is minimal, but that might make it more challenging. The director, Rev. David Cregan, O.S.A. took that challenge and made the Frank McGuinness story into a though-provoking and enjoyable play.

“Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” is not a depressing story, it may sound that way. There is a lot of life, humor and warmth in the friendships that build up among Adam, Edward and Michael. If the play is perhaps a little slow in its middle passages, maybe it is part of the idea, to give us a sense of the leaden passage of time before the glory of the final redemption.