What if you only told the truth and nothing but the truth? Would it actually make a difference or be purely self-serving and futile? Itamar Moses explores this idea at the heart of THE WHISTLEBLOWER. The play also has some fairly dramatic tonal shifts: It starts out as a lighthearted character study of protagonist Eli, an L.A. writer who pitches a T.V. show about a man who decides to confront the people in his life with hard truths— and then decides to try that out in his own life.
It’s a fun concept, evocative of the Jim Carrey film LIAR, LIAR. Under the direction of Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Weschler, Ben Faigus plays the role with aplomb. Eli comes across blissfully unaware of his straightforwardness, rather than savagely honest. Faigus plays Eli with a healthy dose of naivete, which makes the character endearing even in moments when he’s also deeply frustrating.
Moses has also set up some great scenarios in Eli’s quest to live his truth. A particularly resonant scene involves Eli paying a visit to his ex-girlfriend Eleanor (Rae Gray), who he ghosted thirteen years before. Not surprisingly, she’s not pleased to see him at all — and Gray plays the moment to “WTF” perfection. I found that scene entirely cathartic; oftentimes, it’s better when dating ghosts just stay gone. It also provides great interplay for Gray and Faigus; she’s indignant and resolved not to let his reappearance get to her, while he plays Eli’s classic man ignorance to a tee. In another scene, Eli’s truth-telling inspires his mother (terrifically played by RJW Mays) to give a speech about how all men are “clueless idiots” (I applauded)—and she does so right in front of Eli’s daffy father Joseph (Michael Kostroff, who also plays Hollywood executive Richard).
These funnier scenes work well, but THE WHISTLEBLOWER takes a more existential turn about halfway through that doesn’t entirely fit. Moses transitions the later scenes into an exploration of the futility of truth telling, and in some ways, human existence. It’s such a dramatic turn from the earlier, almost farcical moments. Moses also didn’t quite knew how to end the play; the humor and the existentialism then conclude with a conventional and too neatly optimistic final scene.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER is a wacky play, but the ensemble’s game. Julia Alvarez is delightfully dramatic as Eli’s girlfriend Allison, as well as his friend’s wife Lisa, who clearly wants nothing to do with him. William Anthony Sebastian Rose II provides unique energy to his dual roles of Hollywood agent Dan and Eli’s well-intentioned childhood friend Jed. Tying into the existential themes, Andrew Jessop plays Eli’s loner childhood friend Max, who lives alone on a sailboat. Although I’m not sure that Max and Eli’s exchange in the play added much for me, I appreciated Jessop’s willingness to give his all to the quirky character. In addition to Eleanor, Gray has turns as Dan’s smart assistant Sophie and Eli’s sister Rebecca, a drug dealer who refuses to admit exactly what she’s doing. It’s a testament to Gray’s acting abilities that all her characters have distinct energies.
It’s ironic that THE WHISTLEBLOWER begins with a meta pitch of the play’s concept. While the idea is witty, Moses’s concept loses steam in this full-length play. Though it’s billed as a comedy, THE WHISTLEBLOWER is mildly amusing rather than uproariously funny.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER runs through June 17 at Theater Wit, 1229 North Belmont. Tickets are $18-$55.
Photo Credit: Charles Osgood
Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com.