Out of Lebanon

However the details might vary, it seems not much changes in the broad-brush picture of the Middle East. The misfortune and fortune of the Semitic people is to live atop large puddles of oil that the rest of the world wants to control.

If it weren’t designated the Holy Land for three major religions, it would seem wholly unholy, with its 20th-century history of war, bombing, plots, coups and the taking of hostages.

That last tribulation is the subject of Asheville Community Theatre’s latest production, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, set to open at 35below on April 7. Based on a true story recounted in the book An Evil Cradling by Irish hostage survivor Brian Keenan, the play examines the experience of three Westerners held captive in Lebanon.

Nominated for a 1992 Tony Award when it opened on Broadway, the story, amid the continuing agony in that region, is at least as relevant today.

An Irish journalist, a British professor and an American doctor share a prison. They are chained in a bare space, perhaps once a tasteful dining room, with an elegant tiled floor and a boarded-up window. Enduring isolation and confronting an uncertain future, they reach out to each other and discover deep bonds of humanity. The trio manages to preserve their sanity and hope in daunting circumstances — and the story that emerges is one of shared joy more than fear.

At one point, the doctor says, “We’re at their mercy.” To which the journalist replies, “We’re at our own,” and shortly afterward enjoins the others to sing with him, “The water is wide … “

Caught during a pause in rehearsal, Michael Pruitt, who plays the Englishman, Michael, was enthusiastic about the drama. “I love the language that we get to speak, the words we get to say. It’s beautifully, beautifully written.”

Daniel Clancy, cast as Edward, agreed, adding that the relevance of the play seemed particularly striking.

Taking a literally more-down-to-earth tack, Jonathan Ray, playing the doctor, Adam, says, “I get to do a lot of calisthenics — that’s something I can focus on.” (Adam passes the time doing push-ups.)

Pruitt and Clancy are currently appearing in ACT’s production of A Few Good Men, while Ray was last seen onstage in ACT’s Don’t Dress for Dinner.

A widely acclaimed work, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me was written by Frank McGuinness, writer-in-residence at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. For Someone, McGuinness was given the New York Critics Circle’s Best Play Award, in addition to the Tony nomination and numerous other prizes.

The local production is directed by Deborah Austin, an ACT veteran. Austin’s credits include numerous plays, film, staging performances at Biltmore Estate for the annual Roaring Twenties Festival, and being a co-founder of the Montford Park Players, Asheville’s Shakespeare company.

During rehearsal, Austin shifts from quiet listening to stalking lightly about the stage, carefully painting in the details: The director makes notes on scene changes that must occur during blackouts, and decides how a certain mattress will be rolled. Then she inquires whether the elastic that’s fastening chains to ankles is working for the “prisoners” — leaving no question as to who is watching over this show.

35below (behind Asheville Community Theatre at 35 E. Walnut St.) presents Frank McGuinness’ Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from April 7 through April 23. $10. 254-1320.

About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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