Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Malik Essaid (Ahmad Kamal), a French citizen of Algerian parentage, is an internee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a suspected terrorist. He has spent 12 years4,380 daysduring which he meets with a sympathetic lawyer (Michael John Casey) and tries to get through to a vicious Army guard (Rex Daugherty), but the days just keep passing and nothing changes.
That's the primary story, but Dias interweaves it with two others that look back in history. In one, a possibly allegorical woman (Lynette Rathnam) stands in for Scheherazade, spinning stories of Algeria to an unnamed man (Casey) and recounting her dreams of the dead returning to Algiers. The other, set during the French conquest of Algeria in the mid-19th century, pits a French officer (Daugherty) against a Berber (Kamal) who has allied himself with the French against his tribesmen and may also be Essaid's ancestor.
Kamal holds the audience's attention, specifically in his contemporary scenes, and the other actors follow ably. Director Kathleen Akerley does her best to keep things moving forward as characters talk about a Berber king who assisted the ancient Roman army in Carthage but was not eligible to become a Roman citizen, a deliberate slaughter of Algerians by the French, and a discourse on the Book of Job. The script also includes a few passing references to the U.S.' support of anti-Soviet Afghan fighters who later formed Al Qaeda, and to Tom Brady.
The focus of Elizabeth Jenkins' scenic design is on a curtain of chains in front of a backdrop of tropical mountains and sky, a concrete view of Dias' metaphoric invisible chains that restrain people's hearts. John Burkland's lighting design incorporates both the institutional harshness of a military prison and the shimmering heat of Algeria and Cuba.