Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Fickle: A Fancy French Farce
Lawton, working with Daniella Topol's straightforward direction, takes the audience back to the early 2000s, from the 9/11 attacks to the launch of the Iraq War in 2003. Jared Mezzocchi's production design uses news video to show the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, President George W. Bush's speeches, and Colin Powell's testimony before the United Nations about potential Iraqi threats. What the playwright also does is to present three-dimensional portraits of two of the people caught up in the political gambling of the time.
When the audience first meets Valerie Plame (Hannah Yelland), a CIA undercover operative, she is questioning Leyla Nazari (Nora Achrati), an Iraqi immigrant who now runs an exclusive Georgetown boutique, about her uncle Malik (Ethan Hova), who runs a coffee shop in Jordan but earlierunbeknownst to his niecewas a scientist forced to work for Saddam Hussein. Valerie has worked in the Middle East for years and she's following up on Bush's statement that Saddam had purchased uranium from an African country, "making sure it's not a false lead."
Yelland gives a moving performance as a woman doing what she feels she has to do for her country and balancing that against her family life with her husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson (Lawrence Redmond), and their (offstage) twins. She follows the rules as she understands them, and when the situation shifts (in part because of her husband's public challenge to the administration) she's left struggling, but she never crumbles. Regrets must stay private; that's what working undercover means to her.
Misha Kachman's economical scenic design and Kathy A. Perkins' lighting design use a minimal number of pieces, most notably several movable concrete slabs, to move the action effortlessly. Costume designer Ivania Stack has created vivid costumes for Achrati to contrast with the workaday suits and Arab robes worn by the other characters.
Intelligence is the third play commissioned by Arena Stage as part of its ongoing Power Plays initiative focusing on specific events and people throughout U.S. history. The previous ones covered the Camp David accords and the jurisprudence of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.