Captive audience

The Foundation

By Antonio Buero-Vallejo
Translated by Marion Peter Holt
Directed by Brian Snapp
Feed the Herd Theatre Company
The Trilogy Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

An incarcerated writer imagines a world outside the cold, crowded cell is which he is being held. This is the premise of Antonio Buero-Vallejo's The Foundation, originally banned in Spain, which has been translated by Marion Peter Holt. While the plot may sound reminiscent of Man of La Mancha, the result is an original and affecting story. Feed the Herd Theatre Company's convincing production boasted strong staging, performances, and technical elements.

When we first meet Thomas (Tom Lee), he appears to be a guest at a research facility called "The Foundation." He has all the conveniences of home, his girlfriend (Dawn Medina) drops in for a romantic rendezvous, and the institution's employees are accommodating enough. There are a few things out of place, however. Thomas wears a number on his chest, and there is a sick roommate (Eric Michael Kochmer) calling out from his bed. But otherwise everything is fine on this marvelously sunny day.

Or so it seems. When Thomas's other companions return, they soon tire of humoring his delusions and force him to face the truth of his situation. He is a prisoner, and the man in the bed has been long dead. The employees are not there to cater to him, but to admonish and abuse him and his fellow cellmates. When one of the inmates is caught informing on the others, suspicion and strategy build to a tragic climax and a hopeful resolution.

 Based on Buero-Vallejo's own tribulations while in prison for six years during the Spanish Civil War, the drama draws the audience into the mystery of Thomas's true fate. The author has created real characters who evoke empathy, and also poses questions that demand reflection. Brian Snapp directed action and actors with strength and grace. Snapp successfully blurred the line between what is actual and what is imagined in Thomas's mind, allowing the audience to take the journey with him.

The acting ensemble was excellent, starting with Lee as the oblivious central character. Ian Tabatchnick, Emanuel Bocchieri, Jermaine Chambers, and Kevin Kaine formed a formidable quartet of collaborators who struggle to co-exist in their cramped surroundings. Medina was a fetching feminine presence as Thomas's conjured-up visitor, and Kochmer was convincing as the bedridden inmate. Brian Calandra and Josh Mattes made the most of their roles as vicious prison watchdogs who initially appear as eager-to-please waiters.

The set and lighting by Lee and Snapp were intricately designed to cleverly portray Thomas's gradual descent back to reality. Costumes by Kimberly Butler were appropriately drab and durable.

 Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2002 Elias Stimac