Fifteen years ago, Alice (Danielle Skraastad) served as an interrogator at Guantanamo. Yet she doesn’t suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Likely because her trauma isn’t past.
Set in Minnesota in the near future, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s Lidless, produced by Page 73, presents Alice as a wife, a mother, and a florist with a talent for growing hybrid roses. But her carefully cultivated life overturns when Bashir (Laith Nakli), a former detainee, arrives. He contracted hepatitis while imprisoned. Now dying, he wants a piece of Alice. Specifically, her liver.
Well-received at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (where Europeans love to see Americans excoriate themselves), Lidless consists of brisk, penetrating scenes and brutal emotional content. There’s something of a thematic pile-on (torture, memory, illness, friendship, sexuality, justice, inheritance), and many of the metaphors—verbal and visual—are rendered with all the understatement of those orange Gitmo jumpsuits. Yet Cowhig writes compellingly, and the cast (particularly the ever-strong Skraastad) performs faithfully. Director Tea Alagic, who debuted Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brothers Size, knows how to invest even ordinary speech with the force of ritual.
But in the last half an hour, the improbabilities accumulate, and the direction becomes increasingly heavy-handed. The resolution strains belief. Lidless never tortures its audience, but does abuse our good faith.