This weekend I got to see George Packer’s play Betrayed at Aurora Theatre. It’s a play based on his famous 2007 article in The New Yorker about Iraqi interpreters risking their lives to help the Americans in the Green Zone, with no protection or security from those same Americans.
As a playwright, I found the structure a bit clunky. I’m not crazy about lots of “lights up, lights down” scenes, which make a play feel more like a film than a play. I’d like to have spent a little more time in each scene, letting the tension build and drawing out the characters. As the play progressed, though, there were some nice directorial choices that minimized those problems, including some great theatrical, Harold-like seamless transitions where one scene starts while another ends.
As a theatergoer, I found it pretty riveting, especially as the story went past the early flashback sequences and into the present. The story being told is an inherently dramatic one, and the characters are based on real people with huge, life-and-death problems that we may think we know but could never understand. There are moments where audience members are gasping, and even crying; that’s how involving the story becomes.
As a citizen, I found it essential theater. This is your government, and these are people who love the idea of America, even after they encounter tragic indifference from the very American officials they’re trying to help.