“Why Torture is Wrong, and The People Who Love Them” started off a little rocky. To be perfectly honest, for the first 25 minutes or so, I wasn’t really a fan of the show. I thought many of the jokes fell flat and the humor seemed a little too dark. I understand that the play is a dark comedy, but it was just a little hard to laugh when the main character was slipped a roofie and then felt up on stage.
The premise of the play is weird to begin with. It starts with Felicity, played by Alex Ubalde, waking up in bed with Zamir, played by Sean J. Moran, whom she had married the night before while she was blackout drunk. Zamir has fits of anger where he threatens Felicity, but then will quickly return back to a sort of happy-go-lucky composure. This leads Felicity to question if her new husband is a murderer, a terrorist or some other sort of criminal.
The show began to pick up when some of the other characters were introduced, especially Felicity’s mom, Luella, played by Autumn Wehry, who was an audience favorite. Luella appears as a sort of 1950s housewife who is constantly cooking, cleaning and trying to make her family happy. But as the show progresses, the audience is exposed to some outbursts that present a different side of Luella; she is not really happy with her life and is done with the conservative opinions of her husband, Leonard, played by Nick Hoult. One of her rants about how she wouldn’t want to be left on life support, garnered Wehry a huge round of applause in the middle of the show. No one within the play seems to notice these moments, making it all the more special for the audience.
Luella’s view of life is very different than that of Leonard, who would probably be a Trump supporter if “Why Torture is Wrong” was set in the present instead of 2008. He has a huge collection of guns, often makes racist and homophobic comments and is just about ready to kill Zamir for being a terrorist – even though he doesn’t have any solid evidence.
Leonard is accompanied by two very funny female accomplices. The first is Hildegarde (Alyson Pappas-Kirk), who just can’t seem to keep her underwear up, and Looney Tunes (Heidi Gleichauf) who only speaks using the voices of Looney Tunes characters.
Gleichauf plays a variety of roles throughout the play, including a narrator that only Felicity can hear, and although the audience laughed at every one of her parts, Looney Tunes was definitely her best role. How could you not laugh when you hear someone suggest using torture mechanisms in the voice of Foghorn Leghorn or Elmer Fudd?
On the opposite side of the fence, there’s Reverend Mike, played by Will Ketter, who is an easygoing guy and the furthest thing from a typical reverend. Although he references the Bible and looks to Jesus as a role model, he has found his biggest success in directing pornographic films.
The second act, where these supporting characters played the biggest roles, completely changed my opinion of the show. Once all these characters were put into play, the actors really seemed to feed off each other and perform their best.
I especially enjoyed the complete destruction of the fourth wall in this act when characters suggest leaving scenes altogether and where the set seems to have a mind of its own as different sections of the set move in and out to prepare for a “do-over” scene.
And even though you hate Zamir in the beginning, because of the way he acts with Felicity, he develops into quite a character towards the end.
This show wound up being very funny, thanks to the unique array of characters and how they interacted with one another. “Why Torture is Wrong” peaked at the end of the first act and was chock-full of funny moments from there until the end.
Although humorous, the show also presents some political statements that are very relevant and are currently playing a role in our society.
“Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them” will be performed in the Schaeffer Black Box Theater Friday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m.