I’m here at the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket, where the theme of the night is torture.
I confess that I didn’t know it when we walked in.
My wife and I are theater fans, but only she pays attention. She books the tickets, and I tag along, knowing I’ll be pleased.
Yet not tonight. In the lobby is an Amnesty International poster: The America I believe in doesn’t torture people.
It gets worse. The program, Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, features short plays to debunk a euphemism used by the Bush Administration to downplay the torture it has unleashed at Guantanamo Bay and other American anti-terror prisons.
We’re sitting so close to the actors that we could turn some thumbscrews ourselves. A man has been dragged by Ninja-suited commandos into a dungeon-jail, where a sardonic, satanic official, dressed in a business suit, convinces the prisoner that he’s absolutely powerless.
Mr. Suit tells him that Mrs. Prisoner is upstairs. And they’re saving something awful for couple’s young son, who was rude when the brownshirts arrested the trio earlier.
We see them all. First Pa, face bloodied. Then Ma — bedraggled and pathetic in her house dress. Then the child is onstage, and you can tell Mr. Suit loathes him.
In an especially awful moment, Pa, who for a while had seemed stoic, breaks down when Mr. Suit suggests what a good time the thugs upstairs are having with Ma. The man whimpers: “Please, kill me.”
At which point, I jump onto the stage.
This isn’t as big a leap as it sounds, because the theater is so small. But the entire production comes to a halt. Dead silence. I face the audience.
How can we just sit here AND WATCH?
Are we are no better than this bastard? Ladies and Gentlemen, maybe we can’t stop what’s going on at Gitmo. But we don’t have to watch it in Pawtucket. STOP THE PLAY!
It’s an interesting moment. Because the point of the Gamm’s production is to get Americans off our butts, to renounce torture, stop Big Brother, and put the country back on track.
But here comes an angry Gamm guy, on his cell phone to the Authorities while hollering at me.
YOU stop! Stop spoiling the evening; Trampling our First Amendment rights. It’s a play, you book-burner.
Surely, in the next few moments, the curtain will fall on my self-scripted role as Public Nuisance, as I’m hauled off to the real local lockup down on Main Street.
But it’s not to be.
This is just a play-within-play, running only in my mind. Yet everything in me says to get on that stage — the acting is so real, the hurt is so deep.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must not be entertained. Don’t we condone torture just by watching, even when it’s make-believe? STOP THE PLAY!
But how embarrassing. Humiliating to my wife, too. And what of the audience? Don’t they have Rights? Sure, they do.
So here I sit, on my hands; such a good American.