by Holly Quinn
Sarah Joy Stone as Hildegard and Jim Ludovici as Leonard in Bootless Stageworks'  WHY TORTURE IS WRONG AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM.

Sarah Joy Stone as Hildegard and Jim Ludovici as Leonard in Bootless Stageworks’ WHY TORTURE IS WRONG AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM.

Wilmington’s Bootless Stageworks has been homeless for years, but it’s never stopped the small, edgy professional theater company from presenting some of the most memorable shows this town has had to offer, from the strikingly dark PILLOWMAN to JERRY SPRINGER – THE OPERA, PASSING STRANGE, STAR WARS – A NEW MUSICAL HOPE, and their legendary blood-drenched summer horror-movie musicals. We’ve seen productions in empty storefronts on the Riverfront, in a church, and in Opera Delaware’s Black Box theater — but that’s all about to change, as Bootless has finally found a home at 17 S. Walnut St. in Newport, DE just a few minutes from the city.

Alas, the new location is still under renovations, and the company had to find one last “pop-up” spot for their new production, Christopher Durang’s WHY TORTURE IS WRONG AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM. This time, it’s an empty space in the Newport Industrial Park, off Water Street at 415 Marsh Lane. It’s one of the more makeshift spots Bootless has used (it probably doesn’t help that there was a venue change the same day the show opened), but it offers a lot of stage space, perfect for the dual-level setup used for TORTURE.

The audience for the Thursday night opener was sparse, with a few people showing up during the first and second scenes (possibly because of the relatively off-the-beaten path location, though it’s nothing GPS can’t find). As a result, the opener felt more like a dress rehearsal than a premiere, a nice warm-up for the weekend performances.

TORTURE, an absurdist farce skewering the War on Terror, Republicans, guns, marriage, and, yes, torture, is only a few years old, but already feels a bit dated. But, if you’re nostalgic for jokes about Terri Schiavo and WICKED, it fits the bill.

The cast, led by Karina Croskrey as Felicity, Matt Dell’Ollio as Zamir, Gail Wagner as Luella, and Jim Ludovici as Leonard, do a great job with what they’re given. The story centers around Felicity, who, in the course of a drunken one-night-stand, marries the mysterious Zamir (the running gag is that he claims to be Irish), who is abusive toward her right away and who may or may not be a terrorist. Suspecting the situation is a result of her being drugged, she turns to her parents, who are even less stable than Zamir. Her right-wing gun nut of a father is nonplussed that she may have been repeatedly raped by Zamir, but he’s giddy at the possibility that he might be a terrorist. He brings together a small motley band of shadow government operatives to spy on, and, eventually, torture, Zamir. The rub is, their intel is faulty, so while Zamir is a scumbag who threatens to blow things up a lot, he’s not planning a multi-city terror attack, and Felicity might love him after all — hence the title. There are laughs, to be sure, mostly courtesy of Sarah Joy Stone as the ditzy operative Hildegard, Michael Sheldon, an operative who speaks in Looney Tunes quotes, and Shamus Halloran as Reverend Mike, a porno director who marries people on the side. As a political farce, it relies a bit heavily on cartoonish stereotypes for laughs, and the most disturbing questions about Zamir (which are more about his treatment of women than whether he’s a terrorist) remain unanswered.

Still, there’s a definite audience for TORTURE, with its wildly dark humor and anti-conservative message. It has just a four-day run (through March 17) — catch it while you can.

by Christopher Durang
Directed by Rosanne DellAversano
March 14 – 17, 2013
Bootless Stageworks
415 Marsh Road
Newport, DE 19804

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