6th Street Playhouse’s “Faceless” opened Fri., May 17 evoking many stock phrases often used to describe a new and original work of art. Timeless, relevant, compelling and perplexing, dealing with age-old themes of identity and self-discovery, “Faceless” integrates modern technology and current events with these searches.
Characters reveal their problems and their biases as the story moves forward. Revelations of situations emerge through flashback scenes where the eighteen-year-old Susie Glenn (played by Isabella Sakren) used social media to communicate with her ISIS lover. The playwright, Selena Fillinger, chose to travel back in time progressively from most recent to the earliest connection. Sakren presents these scenes with quiet determination and a well-timed delivery.
Sakren’s scenes with other characters, especially Susie’s father Alan (Edward McCloud), and the prosecutor’s assistant Claire Fathi (Ilana Niernberger) contrast strongly with Susie’s private scenes. A full range of emotions fuel Susie when she interacts with others, and Sakren moves from one emotion to another smoothly, realistically. Her most poignant scenes occur with her father, her most deliberate with her attorney (Mike Pavone), and her most spiritual with her prosecutor, Claire.
Claire Fathi, a Muslim and a Harvard educated attorney, has been selected by head prosecutor, Scott Bader (David Yen), to convict Susie who has apparently conspired with a member of ISIS. Susie, a recent Muslim convert, shares more with Claire than spiritual beliefs. Both women have much in common: they stand up for their morals, their motives, and their religious freedoms. Not only do these ideas appear through their actions and speeches but also through a special kind of choreographing of their movements that mirror each other as the play goes on around them.
The two male attorneys, professionally similar in many ways, work against each other as they value winning about all else. Each will use whatever it takes to move the jury to his position. Both Yen and Pavone bring to life the human side of the attorney and his personal life.
Edward McCloud, playing Susie’s father, presents a character that harbors a thoughtless set of values that are challenged by his daughter’s actions. And love for his daughter conflicts with his standard set of beliefs. McCloud presents a realistic portrayal of a father struggling with love and preconceived notions.
6th Street Playhouse’s production has a steady pace and a reliable structure that leads to an interesting consideration in the climax. After the final applause, each member of the audience has some things to ponder. The title of the play gives the clue: who isfaceless? What does faceless mean?
The show spurs on many thoughts, provides few answers. Oh no! Too much like life! And Director Craig Miller acknowledges as much. “For me, ‘Faceless’ possesses all of the qualities of a great contemporary play; it speaks to timely and universal issues; it is a smart, balanced and provocative without being preachy; and it leaves the final answers to the conflict to be decided by each, individual audience member.” Where does the play lead? Who is faceless? What connections, if any, are reached when the lights finally go down? Really, as Miller suggests, the work is left up to the spectator.
The production staff becomes the sixth man in this show. They helped make the play fast paced with quick set changes led by Scenic Designer Jared Sorensen. Lighting Designer April George’s work had a powerful impact on the sudden scene shifts. Costumes for the five actors, designed by Gail Reine, highlighted, and defined in part, these characters.
“Faceless” will appear six more times in 6th Street Playhouse’s Studio Theater. Four evening shows beginning at 7:30 p.m. play May 24, 25, and 31 and Jun. 1. Two matinees start at 2 p.m. on May 26 and Jun. 2. The play runs 90 minutes with one intermission. Tickets may be purchased by calling (707) 523-4185 or going online: 6thstreetplayhouse.com