The moments each woman has on her own ring truer, as when Natasha talks to her little son on the phone, trying with only partial success to hold herself together, knowing he'll likely never see his mother again. There aren't enough moments like that; too much of the story unfolds in declamatory speeches that turn Natasha and Seda into representative types instead of real people. Their internal realizations and growing connection feel engineered.
So does the structure; most of the time the women act as if they're alone in a room, but then they'll shift to talking about us, the audience, as if we're other hostages who are also present – a device that might effectively draw us further into the action, if it made better logical sense.
To be fair, this is a psychological story that doesn't necessarily lay claim to logic, and in a way its discontinuities reflect the insane reality the women find themselves in. But to be fully effective, the play would have had to develop its characters more organically. The high drama inherent in the situation would have more impact without all the unrealistically distilled motivations. There's power in this production, but there could have been a good deal more.
I Plead Guilty runs through May 29 at the Gene Frankel Theater, NYC.
Photo credit: Raymond Haddad