I had high hopes for Park Theatre’s political drama, The American Wife, which opened on Friday. Created by two award-winning writers, one of who was experienced in penning military thrillers, and about a subject that’s so current. Echoes of Channel4’s hit Homeland, I thought. How could it fail?
Sadly, it did – on every count. From the overblown acting of its cast and the poor decision-making of its director to its appalling, clichéd dialogue and stock characters from those who should know better and its risible climax that caused many in the audience to stifle a titter.
This was a parody of what a taut, exciting, thriller should be. Not only that but its US writers, Ralph Pezzullo and Stephen Fife, appeared to have borrowed the story from pretty much every modern war drama produced for the screen in the last ten years. There was nothing original. This was hackneyed and formulaic from beginning to end.
The American Wife opens with Eduardo Ruiz, a former Real Madrid footballer and now school soccer coach, and his wife Karen, preparing to move cities and jobs.
She goes out on an errand and returns to find her husband gone. Soon mysterious, granite-faced suits visit telling her that her husband is a suspected terrorist and has been arrested.
Before long he’s the subject of rendition and shipped overseas to be tortured into revealing details of his sleeper cell and their deadly plans to wipe out San Diego – which, if nothing else, makes a change from New York.
Eduardo’s American wife attracts the attention of an investigative journalist who has contacts everywhere (if only) and he promises to help her track down and procure the release of her husband.
Soon we’re in overseas where we meet the who’s who of stereotypes – the leery-eyed soldiers, the corrupt security chief with hands like an octopus, the Afghan peasants scrabbling to steal Karen’s luggage. Each racist and unimaginative, written by playwrights steeped in their home country’s gung-ho nationalism.
Most scenes lasted no more than a minute or two before we were plunged into darkness and subjected to mood music intent on racking up the suspense. There were so many dark moments that the audience probably spent more time not watching the play than actually viewing this halting production. Director James Kemp’s staging wrecked any thoughts of tension or excitement.
George Taylor, as “investigative reporter” Mark Loomis, was very handsome and dashing but totally unrealistic. One day someone will write a play or movie that accurately portrays journalists. We’re usually denounced as lower than pond life. Here George is some kind of superhero, constantly running onto the stage looking frantic and rescuing Karen from certain death – or worse.
Julia Eringer as Karen, Vidal Sancho, playing her husband, and Emilo Doorgasingh as the Egyptian head of security, Dr Hassan, do their best with what they have but it’s so laughably derivative.
Mitchell Mullen and Anne Whittman are utterly wasted playing a succession of support roles.
Unoriginal, uninspired, jingoistic. The American Wife runs in the P90 at Park Theatre until October 1.
The American Wife
Hackneyed, formulaic and jingoistic, the political thriller, The American Wife, fails to deliver on all counts.