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Danielle Skrasstad gives a superb performance in this powerful if far-fetched drama about a woman who worked as an interrogator at Guantanamo.

Danielle Skraastad and Laith Nakli in Lidless
(© Richard Termine)
There's no question that Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's Lidless, now at Walkerspace, packs a heavyweight's wallop to the solar plexus, but some audience members will nonetheless resist believing the narrative's extraordinary coincidences, and therefore find the work's power diminished.

As the 90-minute play begins, young Rhiannon (Emma Galvin) wanders into Scott Bradley's scuffed-floor white set with fading blood-like stains compromising it. Immediately, however, the action shifts to Guantanamo (strictly referred to here as "Gitmo") in 2004, where we meet an Army medic, Riva (Maha Chehlaoui), and her childhood friend and interrogator Alice (Danielle Skraastad).

It's Alice who has the more prominent task in this Cuban outpost -- employing government-approved techniques, such as the crucial one known as "Invasion of Space by a Female," which allows her to titillate political prisoners.

The remainder of Cowhig's drama unfolds 15 years later, when Alice has returned to her native Minnesota, where she is running a flower shop, and with husband Lucas (Thom Rivera) is raising the note-jotting, asthmatic Rhiannon.

Into her establishment comes Bashir (Laith Nakli), a former Guantanamo detainee, who soon discloses he's succumbing to a case of Hepatitis C contracted during his stay in Cuba and says his only survival hope is getting a liver transplant. Having tracked down Alice -- his interrogator -- and recalling that they are the same blood type, he insists she donate half her pertinent organ.

As the play continues, there are ever-spilling revelations that become even more eye-popping. Alice confers with Lucas and Riva and anguishes over her response -- but not before reverting to her barking-mad interrogator self towards Bashir -- and Rhiannon begins to investigate more of her mother's past, which has unforeseen consequences.

One thing that can be said for Cowhig's constantly-spinning plot is that it provides the kind of melodramatic moments actors love sinking their teeth into. Under Tea Alagic's pointedly relentless direction, Skraastad dominates the proceedings with a superb performance. In a difficult role, the darkly brooding Nakli demands sympathy; Galvin proves fully up to the role's often-surprising challenges; and Chehlaoui and Rivera also are movingly effective when called upon.

Especially as the nation remains engulfed in the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Cowhig's determination to demonstrate that all actions have their inevitable and unexpected repercussions is admirable. But using a plot this far-fetched may not be the best approach to reminding audiences that we're all susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder, and, even moreso, that past evils can come back to haunt us and, worse, unavoidably infect our children.


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