This timely play takes place in the all-too-familiar future, one where war is an accepted part of everyday life, as is constant Big Brother-like surveillance by the government for the best interests of the people. The media is likewise infected, a series of sound bites that trumpet the successes of the war for propaganda, truth an unnecessary part of the national dialog: “Remember when war was something strange? Something foreign?”
Four main characters relay the message of the play: Warren, a documentary film editor aspiring to become what we would call a journalist, now euphemistically named an “information specialist”; Anna, Warren’s wife, a soldier trained in special ops, just returned from the front after a friendly fire incident and a serious case of delayed stress; and Channel One’s Wellness director, Beth De Carlo (“reconfigure your belief for wellness”), who supervises Warren and Anna.
The fourth character is George Ellis, an intelligence operative and the ubiquitous voice of power, who conducts a condescending series of interviews with Beth concerning Warren and Anna, voicing his growing suspicion that the couple is part of an active terrorist group, Blood of the Light. As Beth’s protégé, Warren is particularly scrutinized by Ellis, especially after a colleague of Warren’s is killed in the war. Beth is called to account for the actions of those she supervises.
Meanwhile, Anna, wracked with nerves and subsisting on anti-depressants and mood stabilizers, appears to be hiding significant details of her last mission, trumpeted as a great success against the insurgents. Her monitored conferences with Warren contain a particular tension, the couple as cautious with one another as they are with their superiors.
Eerily familiar, this post-9/11 drama has all the earmarks of a society that exists from day to day in war mode, constant surveillance acceptable and unquestioned. The lack of privacy, while unquestioned by those who must live in such circumstances, is even more intrusive, every room equipped with electronic devices, virtually nowhere free from the government’s monitoring.
When Warren’s recent editing activities come under suspicion, Beth is at a loss to explain the absences on the surveillance tapes. Using snippets of archival and current footage, George builds a hypothetical case that is barely circumstantial. Such is the government’s power that even this is fragmented evidence is damning for Warren.
This is Brave New World on steroids, a murder mystery where the victim is society itself. The watchfulness is pervasive, every action recorded, filed and sifted through later to build arbitrary cases against citizens whenever necessary. The inhumanity of authority depicted in this play is chilling, an efficient, high-tech environment that has smothered free thought and spontaneity. In Carson’s disturbing and provocative play, technology has trumped democracy, one freedom at a time.