Visceral, haunting, and beautifully executed, Now Comes the Night at 1st Stage is an excruciating and suspenseful look at lives of three journalists whose lives were ripped apart while covering the Iraq War. This world premiere play penned by Primus Prize winner EM Lewis, as a sequel to her award-winning work “Heads,”stands alone as an explosive examination of an endless and seemingly “bloodless” war and the role of the media in it’s portrayal. The show is a part of the incredible efforts of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival which seeks to highlight the scope of new plays being written by women, and the range of professional theater being produced in the nation’s capital.
The play began with a literal bang as a crack of thunder ripped through the elegant modern apartment of American journalist Michael Après, played by Dylan Myers, who has just been released after being held hostage for eighteen months in Iraq. When his colleague, Brad Flanigan, played by Jaysen Wright, comes to visit, he begins to suspect that though Michael is home, he certainly hasn’t been freed. The men struggle through the secrets, lies, and betrayals that have haunted their friendship since Michael’s departure, while Michael deals with his own ghosts.
Without giving too much away, because so much of the joy of this work is the surprise at every turn, one could say that in spite of its’ gritty tone, and heavy subject matter, at its’ heart, this is a play about the power of friendship. In every scene, the expressions of these character’s affections for one another is palpable. Each tries to get the other to overcome their demons, speak their truths, and finally feel safe after being in unspeakable peril. Through the piece, the characters are forced to grow, to change, and to be honest about the choices and shortcomings that brought them to the place they were today- in the aftermath of a truly explosive television interview.
1st Stage Theater, and Director Alex Levy, maintained EM Lewis’ masterful levels of suspense through a winning combination of deft design and stunning performances.
The dramatic lighting design by G. Ryan Smith punctuated by the sound design by Rachel Barlaam created an urgent mood throughout, while the immaculately designed set by Kathryn Kawecki, gave the actors a playing space that, like the play, felt simultaneously open and claustrophobic. The play also had an all-star cast.
The wonderful Dylan Myers, stole the show with his heartbreaking and guilt-ravaged portrayal of Michael Apres, and American journalist who has just been released after being held hostage for eighteen months in Iraq, while Jaysen Wright played the indomitable Brad Flanigan with resolution and gravitas that was the perfect foil to Myer’s Apres. The role of Jack Velasquez was played beautifully by the mysterious, honest, and often funny Sun King Davis.
The play closed with a well-earned standing ovation on Saturday night. One would imagine that the Now Comes the Night will continue to receive these and many other accolades, as the run continues. Now Comes the Night is not to be missed.