The Washington Post

‘Interrogation’ at Capital Fringe festival: A new meaning for captive audience


Promotional art for "Interrogation," part of the Capital Fringe festival. (Courtesy John Feffer)

Our huge, shadowy intelligence complex trains an unblinking eye on us all, it seems. That’s the unsettling view of reality plumbed in John Feffer’s satiric and occasionally dramatic “Interrogation.” He makes his audience a central player from the start.

Feffer’s unmannered acting style — that of a gifted amateur, not a professional who disappears into a role — works well for him. Even when he affects a Southern lilt, as he does for “Interrogation,” he doesn’t lay it on too thick.

In his other life, Feffer works as a foreign-policy maven at the Institute for Policy Studies. His past shows include 2012’s “The Pundit” and last year’s “The Politician.” “Interrogation” feels like a theater piece crossed with a TED talk — not a bad thing in the world of Fringe.

Rangy and unassuming, with a Bluetooth device embedded in one ear, Feffer makes his entrance from the side of the theater space in Mount Vernon United Methodist Church. He is our interrogator, John Miller. Talking to an unheard superior, he protests, “I do like my job.”

Mr. Miller turns his attention to the audience, announcing pleasantly that the exits have been blocked, even for that fellow who needed the restroom, and that we’re all going to sit for a group interrogation relating to an imminent terror threat. Pulling raffle tickets from a bowl, he calls “winners” to the stage for questioning. Screen projections seem to reveal information from people’s cellphones and computers.

From the start, however, we learn far more about Miller and his history than we do about us: He suffers from “swimmer’s ear,” for example, which causes stabbing headaches that could be viewed as pangs of guilt. But about what?

The line of questioning keeps curving back to Feffer’s John Miller, and all we in the audience need to do is wait for the other shoe to drop.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

Interrogation

By John Feffer. Directed by Matty Griffiths. 6 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Saturday at the Mountain at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 80 minutes. $17 plus the one-time purchase of a $7 festival button. 866-811-4111. capitalfringe.org.

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