Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Developing A Person of Interest Holds Much Promise
Also see Bob's review of Rich Girl
Charlotte Hauser, an anti-war activist and brilliant microbiologist is a professor and researcher at University College East, a fictional stand-in for a leading New York University. Harry Rabin, on a three year leave from the CIA, is her department chairman. A letter containing anthrax sent to the National Inquirer has caused the death of a reporter. Charlotte is being asked to testify on anthrax before a Congressional committee. Rabin tells her that she is being provided with a terrific opportunity to obtain a Pentagon grant to study anthrax. Charlotte wants the grant to further her research, and enhance her status and reputation. Her English professor husband, Bob Hauser, is against her working for the Pentagon ("I write books. I don't grow bombs"). Charlotte obtains a Pentagon grant to develop advanced methods of weaponizing anthrax as a necessary step in developing methods to neutralize the effectiveness of better weaponized anthrax should it be employed against us.
However, Bob Hauser fears that the Pentagon is using Charlotte's reputation as a bio-ethicist to cover a biological weapons program which it is barred from pursuing by United Nations protocols. Unethical CIA guy Rabin has no qualms about the program because he believes that the United States should develop any weapon that will enhance our military strength and power.
The FBI suspects that Rabin mailed the letters containing the deadly anthrax to the National Inquirer in the belief that the consequences would bring about the funding needed to restart his research program.
Enter FBI agent Jane Willis, who threateningly pushes Charlotte to provide her with any information that could implicate her mentor Rabin in regard to the anthrax letters. Letters sent to congressmen which point to the involvement of radical, anti-Israeli Muslims are analytically dismissed by Charlotte as obvious forgeries. Clearly, they were forged in order to stir negative feelings toward Islamists.
Certainly, all Americans have reason to be concerned about unexamined and unrestrained Federal bureaucracies (here, specifically the Pentagon) operating secretly and outside the law to further policies which jeopardize our freedom and values. There is also cause for concern about legal or arguably legal actions of bureaucrats which expose us to these jeopardies. The broad, arbitrary authority which has been granted to the Executive by an inattentive Congress is at play here. Thus, the questions which Seehaus-Fisher raises are valuable and deserve our attention.
Likely as a result of script revisions for this world premiere play having continued through much of the rehearsal period and the lack of preview performances, the cast members had not fully developed their characterizations by the opening performances. However, Katie Marshall playing the Hauser's fourteen year old daughter Lynn brought a fresh, natural and ebullient quality to her role.
Playwright Jewel Seehaus-Fisher and Women's Theatre Company director Barbara Krajkowski have bravely tackled complex and important political, scientific and moral issues in A Person of Interest, a world premiere 90-minute, one act play. Trying to cover too many issues, the play fails to achieve a clear focus either dramatically or intellectually. As it stands, it is pertinent and thought provoking. If Seehaus-Fisher can untangle the issues which she addresses and delineate the relative relevance of each, establish a central, through plotline, and strengthen her characterizations, A Person of Interest could become a play of importance.
A Person of Interest continues performances (Fridays and Saturdays 8 pm/ Sundays 3 pm) through March 30, 2013, at the Women's Theater Company in residence at the Parsippany Playhouse in the Parsippany Community Center, 1130 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey 07034; box office: 973-316-3033; on-line: www.womenstheater.org.
A Person of Interest by Jewel Seehaus-Fisher; directed by Barbara Krajkowski