The American Wife at the Park Theatre
Considering that society’s knowledge of terrorist-related issues is largely constructed upon media-fed rhetoric, one would expect a play on the subject to give a fresh perspective or offer novel insights. Instead of challenging the usual narrative, The American Wife simply reiterates generic stereotypes and offers nothing more than the scaremongering notion that anyone in the vicinity could be a terrorist.
Eddie, a former football star turned college coach, and Karen are happily married and preparing to move from San Diego to Phoenix with their two children. Their blissful life is interrupted abruptly when Eddie suddenly disappears. Karen is informed that her husband is accused of terrorist activity and, aided by a keen journalist, she embarks on a mission to find him and clear his name.
The play opts for a cinematic approach, with very brief scenes divided by dramatic music reminiscent of news broadcasts. Unfortunately this limits the potential to establish a connection with the audience, as frequent scene changes make it impossible to move beyond the surface and find any depth. The characters are not given a chance to evolve, which makes it difficult to warm up to the protagonists.
The stage is almost completely bare and only a few props are used. The minimalistic set is not completely amiss: in fact, the play would have benefitted from more subtlety. The storyline is so implausible at times as to near the absurd: Eddie’s past as a Real Madrid player; terrorist attacks coinciding with his transfer matches; a journalist who can somehow access the most dangerous prisons around the world as well as the offices of top authorities; and the list goes on.
The actors in supporting roles have great stage presence and redeem some of the far-fetched scenarios, but they play so many different roles that it takes a few moments to readjust to their new persona. The protagonists, on the other hand, are mostly two-dimensional and nothing is made of the psychological element of their experience.
The most problematic aspect of the play is that the script itself is unconvincing and filled with clichés. When Karen travels to Afghanistan and Egypt looking for her husband, from the moment she sets foot in the airport, every person she encounters is violent and unscrupulous. Such misinterpretations are not only unrealistic, but also detrimentally misleading.
Apart from failing to offer a credible plot, The American Wife does not serve to educate or inspire, but rather misinforms with its superficial and inadequate portrayals.
The American Wife is at Park Theatre from 7th September until 1st October 2016, for further information or to book visit here.