'The English Bride' calls for a tolerance of ambiguity

In "The English Bride," J. Paul Nicholas is an Arab man being interrogated and Corinna Burns is his lover.
In "The English Bride," J. Paul Nicholas is an Arab man being interrogated and Corinna Burns is his lover. (PAOLA NOGUERAS)
Posted: November 16, 2012

'That's private."

"This is a situation in which there is no privacy."

That situation - investigated with many false starts and bogus clues - is the subject of Lucile Lichtblau's new play The English Bride, directed by Deborah Block for Theatre Exile.

That situation is the interrogation of an Arab (J. Paul Nicholas) by an Israeli Mossad officer (Damon Bonetti). And the questioning of an English woman (Corinna Burns) who is/was the Arab's lover. And a flight canceled. And a terminal evacuated. What is going on? Who did what? Why?

The English Bride requires a tolerance for ambiguity - not just patience as we wait to find out what's what, but also a willingness to face the fact that the truth is only partly knowable and only some of the time. Dov, the Israeli agent, knows this all too well - a lesson that the play will teach us.

Eileen Finney is a barmaid from Leeds: plain, naive, and "invisible." She longs for a full life, which she seems to find in a romance with Ali Said. As their relationship develops, they plan to fly from London to Israel so she can meet his parents and they can be married (thus the play's Masterpiece Theater-resembling title).

The play takes place in two interrogation rooms in the airport. Various other locales and events are acted out as the characters recount their lives in flashbacks - a meeting in the park, her job in the pub, visits from his friend (the Syrian the Israelis are after?). There are declarations of love, protestations of innocence, confessions of shame. We are intrigued without ever being satisfied, having been duped and lured into various sympathies.

The three performances are, however, quite satisfying: round, full characterizations too subtle for stereotypes.

The English Bride

Presented by Theatre Exile at Studio X, 1340 S. 13th St. Through Dec. 2. Tickets $20-$34. Information: 215-218-4022 or www.theatreexile.org.

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