How far would you go to prove your loyalty?
This is one of the themes from the production of “Debriefing” at the 2016 Summer Fringe Festival. The play works on how undercover operations can go awry when the covert agent’s cover is blown, due to inadequate Intel gathering. It starts with Agent Handler Reed (well-played by Andrew Rothkin), debriefing one of his agents Aliya, (brilliantly played by Nazil Sarpkaya) on her recent visit to Afghanistan where she attended the funeral of her relative and to gather Intel on operatives in the Islamic Caliphate.
Director Joan Kane obviously understood what the dynamic between Reed and Aliya should be, creating what seemed to be very much in the line of most Secret Agency scenarios. It was believable, even at times seemed more like a father and daughter dynamic. Rothkin and Sarpkaya were obviously highly comfortable with each other and the source material. A bit more volume would have been beneficial but all in all the first act of the drama moved well.
Kane’s direction provided fine staging, but was particularly strong in creating powerful relationships between the characters. The level of identifiability and commiseratory feelings obviously came from an adept hand.
Act II shined from the onset with the actors center stage for a high energy debriefing interrogation scene. Sarpkaya was especially compelling in recounting, in anguish, treating a fatally wounded teenage male combatant at the hospital while she was in the IC. Sarpkaya swift changing from in the now to flashback was done with the grace of a well-trained acrobat. Wonderful range of emotion and control Sarpkaya used was well-placed and necessary for her characters portrayal.
Page Clements portrayal of Director Finch, was very much spot-on as a high positioned Director of Homeland Security. The bottom line of protecting the American “children” from the beheading of the IC, was truly believable and at times could feel deplorable to anyone that has not been in a situation where they have to make a drastic decision that means life and death of an agent. She possesses such aplomb and talent that comes with a well- thought out character development and training.
Adeel Ahmed, playing a senior covert agent, was well was truly compelling – enough so that there should have been more of him. His character felt more plot devise than persona.
Andrew Rothkin’s performance as Agent Reed, was a hard one to describe at first glance. But as the show progressed, Rothkin gave Reed a deep conflicted nature. One for doing his job and the other were feelings to protect Aliya and promised to bring her back home. He was very much the glue for the play and close in nature to the audience. One can associate with him easily during the whole production.
Overall, “Debriefing” leaves the audience with great fodder for discussion. One this is for certain, the play, like the drone airstrike survival story, is now ejected onto the world. We expect it to make a powerful impact in the future.