P.O.W. Missing in action

review by Robert Gottlieb

There’s a moment in Irving A. Greenfield’s new play, P.O.W. when an overzealous defense attorney shouts at the top of his lungs while pounding his desk in anger or retribution or indignity or something. It’s a scene that belongs in every legal drama. If you’re not going for your “you can’t handle the truth” moment, then why place your story in the courts at all? When these motifs are appropriately placed, they make us stand up and cheer for Justice. For American Justice, even. Unfortunately, the table slamming, shouting match in Mr. Greenfields script is not appropriately placed. It does not stand atop any escalating, sizzling drama. It pierces what had been a CSPAN-esque, near silent interlude in the script. It was about as off-putting as an ! in the middle of a sentence.

So went much of the night. I have seen stellar work from the American Theatre of Actors and Director Laurie Raw Waugh in the past, but the mark was missed many a time with P.O.W. The emotional dynamics just seemed off. When Sidney Pollack (Ken Coughlin) recalls to his grieving wife, Louise (Amy Losi), “remember when I had cancer,” it’s given about as flatly as one might recall one’s breakfast (‘remember when I had pancakes…’). The post-coital scene between the nefarious Amanda Howell (Victoria Christi) and her lover Det. Robert Gordon (Anthony J. Gallo) is colder than January, and it adds ten unnecessary minutes to the script. It all makes for a wonky, awkward rollercoaster where the lows feel like highs and the highs feel like corkscrews.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the excellent work of Nick Pascarella and the aforementioned Mr. Gallo. These men bring the sort of authenticity to their respective roles that every Jersey-accented actor goes for, but very few can pull off. Ken Coughlin also gives a powerful, if uneven performance in the leading role. He has the goods for this part, but he stumbled over his lines here and there, an issue that afflicted the entire cast on the night I attended. P.O.W. draws from fertile moral ground, and the family drama at the play’s heart is poignant. A little more rehearsal time and a few good edits might have done wonders here. But, as is, Mr. Greenfield’s play lacks the intensity and execution needed to captivate an audience for an entire trial. In this juror’s eyes, P.O.W. stands accused: boring until proven otherwise.

 

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