An Interrogation Primer, at the Steve and Marie Sgouros Theatre, steps confidently outside the safe confines of "theater." The 35-minute monologue is written by military veteran Mike Nowacki in the second person as instructions for how to do an interrogation. The set is equally straightforward, consisting solely of a stark table that actor Sean Bolger paces around. His character isn't given a name; he doesn't introduce himself but rather appears as an increasingly persistent dream that seeps into our consciousness.
Nowacki served as an interrogator in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and writes with an unfinished urgency that works to his advantage. This is not a "well-made play" and director Eric Ziegenhagen never tries to force it to be one. Rather, he harnesses Nowacki's raw energy through Bolger's acutely focused performance, and thrusts it upon us. There isn't any exposition; there aren't really even many recurring characters. Instead, the audience becomes the characters as if in a "choose your own adventure novel" -- but one written by Joseph Conrad.
The humor is fleeting and pitch black, and there doesn't seem to be a way out after Bolger slams the theater door shut early on in the work. It gets to the point where the everyday rhythms of the interrogation are so ingrained in our minds that we lose track of time and of beginnings, middles and ends. It's in these moments that we feel closest to Nowacki and the interrogator he has created before us. Good and evil recede unfocused into the background as incongruent pieces of information are thrust together in the hopes of creating a cohesive thought.
As the interrogation continues, objectives become less, not more, clear. There's never a slickness like in the FOX television show 24 -- just a blur of thought that superiors try unsuccessfully to reign in with a list of rules. However, as Nowacki points out, there are no rules, only guidelines. Then without warning, the show ends as abruptly as it began.
-- Chris Kompanek