Homeland Insecurity: Don’t Be Evil
In these unsettling times, it’s appropriate for Burbage Theatre Company to present a look at barbaric and cold-blooded human beings. Bennett Fisher’s Don’t Be Evil explores the world of “enhanced interrogation,” government surveillance and modern technology.
This is a disturbing and provocative show, well directed by Jeff Church.
William Webster (Dillon Medina), a brilliant computer programmer, is grilled relentlessly by two government agents, Hayes (Allison Crews) and Kavanaugh (Andrew Iacovelli), in a windowless room because Webster designed a search engine called “Alexandria.” When Alexandria was asked, “Is the United States government evil?” it answered, “yes.” The agents demand to know why the search engine answered the question that way.
Webster tries unsuccessfully to plead with his inquisitors. He explains “Alexandria” is “just a tool” for information. Kavanaugh becomes increasingly impatient with Webster and seems willing to do whatever is necessary to break him.
Don’t Be Evil is remarkable for the way it shows us the humanity of Hayes and Kavanaugh. Hayes wants to believe she is doing something good for the country. She alludes to major terrorist incidents and believes torture is necessary if it will save lives. Kavanaugh is the more threatening of the two and subjects Webster to severe physical abuse. He seems like a monster, but the truth turns out to be much more complicated.
Medina delivers a solid performance as the bewildered and suffering Webster, who is stuck in a hopeless situation, yet maintains an inner strength. Iacovelli is also effective as a man programmed to use violence to get information. Crews’ Hayes has a perfectly chilly demeanor that nicely complements Iacovelli as they intimidate Webster.
Jim Sullivan virtually steals the show as Murdock, who explains what is going to happen to Webster when the questioning is over. Murdock’s friendly charm as he casually describes the most horrific atrocities is quietly terrifying.
This all sounds unbearably grim, yet there is plenty of humor to be found, especially in the interactions between Iacovelli and Medina.
Out of curiosity, after the show I navigated to Google and asked if the United States government was evil. The answer did not surprise me at all.
Don’t Be Evil runs through February 25. Burbage Theatre Company. 276 Westminster St, PVD. burbagetheatre.org.