Performing arts ~ "Don't Be Evil" ~ Burbage Theater Company ~ Providence

Burbage Theatre Co.
Aurora Providence
276 Westminster St.
Providence, Rhode Island

The lights come up.

A door. Two chairs. A table.

A man with a bag over his head. His hands are cuffed behind him.

Those are the first moments of Don't Be Evil, by Bennett Fisher, described on Burbage's website as a "...dark comedy about interrogation and innovation[;] a computer programmer is arrested after the search engine he designs answers “yes” to the question “is the government of the United States evil?”"

Whuh-oh. As you'd expect, the government of the United States is not amused. Agents Hayes (Allison Crews) and Kavanaugh (Andrew Iacovelli) try to convince programmer William Webster (Dillon Medina) to figure out how to change the answer.

In a single room set of blank and colorless walls and floor, the scenes quickly become claustrophobic. And as Webster struggles to get think faster than his algorithm, it seems time is running short. The agents may have to send for Murdock (Jim Sullivan). Always the last resort.



The play is tense, and as promised, darkly comic. Even in scenes outside the interrogation room, we're kept off-balance by withheld information, the same way Webster is by his isolation.

As Webster, Dillon Medina is convincing. He's bewildered by his predicament and his creation, and arrogantly frustrated by his interrogators' inability to understand the complexities of technology. He's terrified, outraged, and behaves much as I imagine I would in his place.

Andrew Iacovelli is very capable as Kavanaugh, the enforcer. While Agent Hayes (Crews) is all talk, with the smug condescension of a bully who knows she has the upper hand, Kavanaugh is not a talker, or much of a thinker. Yet, he has moments of common sense wisdom that provide some breakthrough ideas.

Jim Sullivan as Murdock is chilling. The character is too awful to be likeable, and too likeable to be disgusting. Sullivan walks that line with disturbing finesse.

The play is intense, nuanced and thought-provoking. I left the theater feeling that I'd seen something important. Although the play is a few years old, it resonates today, and asks some compelling moral questions about good, evil, and compassion.

Don't Be Evil is playing through February 27 at Aurora in Providence. Go see it, and come back to tell me your thoughts!

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