Be not deceived by the twinkly lights hung around the black field and the pre-show piano soundtrack tinkling Christmas tunes and the mottled inexperienced and purple fill mild on the set. This ExPats Theatre manufacturing is something however a winsome vacation present. It’s as an alternative a tensely suspenseful and rivetingly well-written play about state surveillance and revolutionary violence and a bomb which will or could not go off at midnight on December 24.
The Austrian and German playwright, Daniel Kehlmann, calls his twisty script “a play for 2 actors and a clock,” and certainly a projected digital readout counts down tick by tick how a lot time is left.
We face a plain tan wall with an enormous window that’s coated by vertical blinds. A person in a cheesy tie and rumpled jacket opens the blinds and we notice we’re observing an interrogation room as if from the darkish facet of a one-way mirror. This totally sensible set idea by Scenic Designer Nadir Bey will make us really feel aware of an interesting contest of wit and can between a senior police investigator named Thomas (Stephen Patrick Martin) and an unbelievable suspected terrorist named Judith (Danielle Davy).
The room is grim, the door is locked. Thomas sits at a desk with a telephone, books and papers, and of all issues a bobblehead Santa. Judith enters warily but regally, wrapped in an expensive black fur-collared coat. Judith is clearly not the everyday “jihadist” Thomas says he routinely offers with publish 9/11. She is a professor of philosophy who holds an endowed chair, “an instructional,” as she tells Thomas, “who writes boring stuff about structural violence and infrequently goes on an illustration.” She’s stylish and poised, and beneath her coat wears a smooth inexperienced velvet costume (costume design is uncredited). However there’s little question she’s a Frantz Fanon–fan radical, and she or he makes clear whose facet she’s on:
Judith: The principle risk to the world is … poverty, and poverty isn’t an accident. We create it. And that’s what’s often known as exploitation.
What ensues between Thomas and Judith is a first-rate cerebral thriller that had me transfixed. He’s on the facet of regulation and order and the powers that be and he is aware of loads about her. A scary lot. State surveillance has captured an virtually minute-by-minute report of her life. So it’s that he has grounds to be suspicious: Was Judith complicit in a bomb plot to name media consideration to the oppression of the poor? Have been she and her ex-husband co-conspirators? Thomas is decided to search out out. The extra he probes, the extra the thriller deepens. And Karin Rosnizeck directs every bracing beat with arresting assurance.
Below Thomas’s incessant questioning, Judith is put by a brain-wringer of emotion, which she does her greatest to cowl, primarily with a strained stare into the mirror we’re on the opposite facet of. She does break at one level, and Davy manages the a number of intermediate modulations in Judith’s temper clearly sufficient, though some transitions are extra persuasive than others.
As a stage presence, Davy’s Judith isn’t any match for Martin’s Thomas, who charms, cajoles, taunts, and in a single surprising outburst berates his helpless topic with such nuance and tonal shading we expertise his expansive complexity as vivid and visceral coherence. And typically what he says is so quotable one desires to freeze the body to take it in. For example:
Thomas: The reality is, we’re utterly powerless in opposition to people who find themselves ready to die. The person who’s ready to die is unconquerable, unstoppable, immune from any punishment, solely you’ll be able to’t say that in public, as a result of persons are scared sufficient as it’s.
Lighting and Projections Designer Hailey LaRoe has offered eyecatching underlining for the textual content of the play — which, translated from German into crackling English idiom by Christopher Hampton, doesn’t really want it. When a household canine is talked about, as an illustration, we see on the body enormous faces of German shepherds. When Judith’s ex-husband’s infidelities with college students are talked about, the body fills with a montage of similar-looking younger ladies’s faces. And so forth. Typically these visuals are extra sensory overload and distraction; at different instances, as with the pictures of time ticking ineluctably towards midnight, it’s like a tightening vice.
There’s a severe argument within the undercurrent of this play, one which Rosnizeck astutely units up in a video clip at the start. In opposition to a backdrop of the Patriot Act, we see President Obama talking:
I believe it’s essential to know you can’t have one hundred pc safety after which have one hundred pc privateness and 0 inconvenience. We’re going to should make some decisions as a society.
On the earth simply after 9/11, these phrases had a weight that won’t appear as germane to a world on the brink in Ukraine. However the argument between Thomas and Judith factors to an ongoing international drama and an evergreen battle of conscience — the rulers of the earth versus what Fanon known as the wretched of the earth — making Christmas Eve a piece price seeing properly past its excellent ExPats execution.
Working Time: Roughly 80 minutes with no intermission.
Christmas Eve performs by April 10, 2022, introduced by ExPats Theatre performing in Lab II at Atlas Performing Arts Middle, 3333 H Avenue NE, Washington, DC. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday matinee at 2:30 pm. Tickets ($20–$40) can be found on-line.
COVID Security: Vaccination proof or unfavorable check consequence and mask-wearing are required.
By Daniel Kehlemann
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Karin Rosnizeck
Judith: Danielle Davy
Thomas: Stephen Patrick Martin
Stage Supervisor: Laura Schlactmeyer
Scenic Designer: Nadir Bey
Lighting & Projections Designer: Hailey LaRoe
Struggle Director: Jon Rubin
Sound Designers: Karin Rosnizeck & Laura Schlachtmeyer