Review: 2 Women in a Cell, Grasping for Sanity in ‘No One Is Forgotten’

The girls in the cell might be journalists, they might be activists, they might be assist staff. They don’t appear to know the place they’re or how lengthy their captivity has lasted. They have little hope of launch, except if by launch you imply loss of life. Death they look ahead to.

“No One Is Forgotten,” Winter Miller’s serious-minded new play — its loyalties divided between the theatrical and the reportorial — is about prisoners of conscience. Probably. A playwright and a journalist, Ms. Miller wrote this 90-minute drama in response to the rising numbers of journalists who’ve been captured and killed in latest years. When she discovered of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, she determined to self-produce and direct it.

At Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, the viewers is seated on 4 sides of a concrete cell (the set design is by Meredith Ries), naked besides for a waste bucket. It is inhabited by two girls. We finally be taught their names, Lali (Renata Friedman) and Beng (Sarah Nina Hayon), however little about their prior existence or the particulars of their relationship. Instead we see them work to maintain themselves sane and alive — consuming, exercising, taking part in I Spy, consuming their very own urine when no water is introduced. We by no means see their captors, and since the sound design, by Tyler Kieffer, is purposefully summary, we don’t actually hear them both.

Subjugated characters who move time in anticipation of a salvation that by no means arrives will doubtless recall to mind “Waiting for Godot” — and if anybody has ever puzzled what it will be like if the Beckett property allowed girls to carry out that play, it will in all probability look one thing like this. But Ms. Miller, a former analysis assistant for Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times and the writer of the play “In Darfur,” has journalistic and activist instincts that don’t all the time mesh together with her absurdist, theatrical ones.

The play is usually very exact, as in that scene of urine consuming and in a lot of its terminology — Mazda Miata, gaucho pants, tangelo. But extra typically it’s airier and surprisingly withholding in its reluctance to particularize these girls. Actually, these girls needn’t even be girls. A notice in the script means that the play may simply as simply have been staged with a man and a girls or two males, although right here the interrupted intercourse scenes recommend one other potential purpose for Lali and Beng’s confinement. The play oscillates, uneasily, between the precise and the overall, the summary and the concrete.

I don’t particularly like feeling unhealthy on the theater, however as I left Rattlestick (getting out the door was one thing of a problem owing to the stage configuration), I puzzled why I didn’t really feel worse. I’d think about imprisonment in a international nation as extra boring, extra terrifying. Instead, “No One Is Forgotten” felt brisk, well-structured, boldly carried out. At instances I puzzled if this was a jail in any respect or just an allegory for long-term intimacy. (I’m nonetheless questioning.) Ms. Miller’s level could also be that this type of imprisonment can occur to anyone, however doesn’t it matter extra that it occurs to anyone?

No One Is Forgotten
Through July 27 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Manhattan; 866-811-4111, Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

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