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‘Hostage’ holds audience captive

Jose Ruiz

Rather than having you wade through an entire review, we’ll say it

now. “The Hostage,” presented by the Alliance Repertory Company in

Burbank, is easily one of the best plays of the year.

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The award show producers should go to the engravers now, and get

those plexiglass statuettes ready, because as the late Chick Hearn of

the Lakers used to say, “the Jell-O’s jiggling and the refrigerator

door is closed!”

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Director Stephanie Shroyer has done a magnificent job leading the

huge ensemble cast through a tension-filled tale of a 24-hour period

in a small Irish town.

The late Brendan Behan lived a short, dramatic, strife-ridden

existence, and the plays he wrote were verbal transfusions of the

agonies and the passions that drove him to death by inebriation. “The

Hostage” is one of those passions.

Set against the war-torn backdrop of Ireland in the early 1960s,

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the core of the story is about a young IRA soldier who is going to be

executed by the British. To counter, the IRA captures a young British

soldier and announces that they will shoot him the minute the IRA

youth is killed. Lacking resources, the IRA decides to hide their

hostage where the British will least suspect -- in a brothel.

What makes this story compelling is the assortment of characters

that populate the brothel. The cast members breathe a unique quality

into the spirit of each character, making this production an

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outstanding success.

The women are lusty, the men crude, the emotions are on edge and

the liquor flows freely and soon you forget it’s a performance and

believe you’re another one of the “guests” laughing nervously,

drinking and participating in the apprehension and anxiety.

The set is the faded lobby of the house, complete with bar and

piano, a few stools and tables and a second floor with rooms where

the regulars entertain their “guests.” Everyone is broke, nobody pays

the bill, but everyone always has the time and means for another

pint.

In a wonderful performance, Morlan Higgins as Pat, the co-owner,

makes a halfhearted effort to keep the place afloat with his wife,

Meg (Sarah Zinsser), who tackles the part with unrivaled zest. Pat

has bitter memories of war, but tries to reconcile his misery with

the current events.

When an IRA officer (Armin Shimerman), brings the hostage, Leslie

(Geoffrey Lind), to the establishment, his focus is to keep control

and stick to the rules. The residents have other ideas, and the

hostage is treated to experiences seldom enjoyed by prisoners,

including a brief romance with lovely Teresa (Jesse Wiseman), an

innocent girl who runs errands.

As the hour approaches for the IRA soldier to die, tempers flare,

tensions escalate, nerves explode and no one expects the twist that

occurs. But if one thing comes from this story, it’s a soulful truth

that regardless of how righteous one feels about a conflict, fate

always steps in with its irreversible whims, and that’s something no

one can control.


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