SOMEONE WHO'LL WATCH OVER ME by Frank McGuinness (Adeona). At the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley). To December 13. See Continuing. Rating: NN
Someone Who'll Watch Over Me works best as an acting showcase for David Ferry, Ryan Hollyman and R.H. Thomson.
The three play, respectively, Edward, Adam and Michael, prisoners from Ireland, the U.S. and England, shackled to the wall in a Lebanon jail. Unfortunately, they're also shackled to Frank McGuinness's trite script and the pedestrian direction of Tegan Shohet.
First staged in 1992 and mounted at the Tarragon in 1994, the play is vague about its politics. Journalist Edward, doctor Adam and professor Michael seem to have nothing in common and don't know why they've been imprisoned by a group of nameless, faceless Arabs. McGuinness's allusions to Gandhi, Old English poetry and Greek myth show him striving for a timeless, triumph-of-the-human-spirit allegory, but it doesn't succeed.
Funny jokes and amusing scenes help pass the time, especially one between Ferry and Thomson involving a famous Wimbleton match attended by a bored Queen Elizabeth. But the characters remain ciphers - nationalist clichés, especially the American - and Shohet, working on a monotonous set, doesn't deal with some of the script's undercurrents, like the possibility of sex between the men.
Still, the actors add power and dignity to their roles, particularly Ferry, whose bluster and yarn-spinning hide fear, and Thomson, whose fusty widower confronts his inner loneliness.
Shohet, a lawyer with an interest in human rights, was likely drawn to the topic of political imprisonment and justice (it's hard not to think of the recent Melissa Fung case). But apart from the acting, this show is a lost cause.