Inis Nua Theatre Company brings U.K.-style “pub theater” to Philly at Fergie’s Tavern with a second helping of its delectable production of David Greig’s THE LETTER OF LAST RESORT, previously part of Tiny Dynamite’s “A Play A Pie and Pint” series. This short play, directed Claire Moyer, makes a lasting impact as it explores the explosive possibility and repercussions of Britain’s decimation by nuclear force.
It is a fact that each British prime minister, upon taking office, is tasked with authoring a hand written letter giving instructions either to retaliate, or not retaliate in the event of such a cataclysmic disaster. The letter is then secured inside a safe within a safe to be opened by a Trident submarine commander after the unfathomable has happened. In Greig’s dramatization, the audience witnesses the conflicting implications of the above scenario as the play opens with the PM (Susan Giddings) writing, balling up, tossing, then re-writing what turns out to be a letter of condolence to the family of a fallen soldier. When John (Adam Rzepka), an “arranger”, suggests utilizing a template for such a draft in his attempt to hasten the PM to jot down the more pressing “letter of last resort”, the PM disagrees on an emotional level. An intriguing dialogue ensues, and a role-playing bit is aptly employed, in a gripping probe of protocol and the philosophy of deterrence behind nuclear armament.
The intimate theater space on the second floor of Fergie’s Pub is opportunely put to use as the office of the PM. Sue Giddings is most believable as the PM, in her comportment, gestures and authentic British speaking voice. As her character peers out with concern over the imaginary streets of London through lovely stained glass windows, crumpling letters at the large wooden desk, sipping tea or executing an expletive, it is done with control. John’s position in the play is an awkward one as he attempts to lead a leader to a difficult decision. Adam Rzepka effectively leashes this tension in depicting duty and dilemma and diligence in his role as John, bending to authority, yet managing to stand firm in his efforts to get “the letter” secured. Both actors maneuver around the stage with ease, and costumes are well done. Served with a drink and some good food, this is a refreshing production of a thought provoking play. [Fergie's Pub, 1214 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA] May 19-21, 2015; inisnuatheatre.org.
Inis Nua staged a full run of THE LETTER OF LAST RESORT as part of its 2013/14 season. Read the Phindie review here.