Review: Facts by Arthur Milner

To be fair, others have reacted more positively than I,  to this play, in the intervening years. The review is not entirely negative, as witness the sixth paragraph. Here is part of a comment emailed to me by the playwright, whose contention I accept, that there is room to believe the play is better than I said it was. I post it as is. — DJH June 22, 2014

FACTS opened in Ottawa in 2010 and has since travelled to
Toronto, London U.K., Israel/Palestine (in Arabic), and Istanbul (in Turkish). It has had many excellent reviews, including in London’s Financial Times and Time Out (critic’s pick).

Here beginneth my review:

I hung around waiting for the second act of Arthur Miller’s play, but when I saw cast member John Koensgen in his civvies speaking to fans in the lobby, I knew it was a lost cause. This is not my usual tirade about one-act plays masquerading as full evening of entertainment; that comes later. This is rather a complaint about the script: it’s just not complete.

To elaborate: of the three visible characters in this play, there is no one sympathetic enough or human enough for the audience to identify with. The story concerns an Israeli policeman and a Palestinian policeman who meet in what must be a Palestinian interrogation room to resolve the issue of who killed an American archaeologist whose work appears to prove that much of the Bible never happened. Eventually they bring in an Israeli fanatic for questioning. Things escalate, and the Israeli policeman **spoiler alert** shoots him dead.

The script just does not give us enough about any of these three men to have any more than a spectator interest in the events depicted. That is why I say it needs another act: it needs another act to give us the human side of these three men, to explore their motives, their humanity. To give some meaning other than obvious stereotypes to their existence.

The ending—in which Yossi (Koensgen) shoots a prisoner, Danny (Kris Joseph) after brutalizing him—has all the appearances of being tacked on simply because Miller needed an ending. Yossi’s hot temper and political inclinations certainly do not provide a motive or rationale for the shooting. All the shooting does is raise questions about what happens next to Yossi. This is a really puzzling development because the script has not focused our attention on Yossi; our attention has been focused on the suspect, Danny, and the much more interesting and introspective Palestinian policeman, Khalid (Sam Kalilieh).

GCTC has this season started the practice of including a blank post it note in the printed program, asking the audience member to answer a question or write a comment. The questions vary. The question in my program was, “What do you think this play is about?” I have a sneaking suspicion that this question was asked because somebody didn’t know the answer. I’ll tell you what the play should have been about. It should have been about motive, and the motives had to be examined in a much longer play that would show us how the humanity of these three men caused them to act as they did. Some rhetorical questions: Why was Khalid so even-tempered and fair? Why was Yossi so angry? Why was Danny so radicalized? Why did Yossi kill Danny? Why should we like any of them?

The problematic script aside, there was still a great deal to like about this production. All three actors were convincing within the confines of the script. Koensgen and Kalilieh, who carried the bulk of the action, played well together and were excellent foils for each other. Joseph trod the very fine line between innocent man and terrorist with just the right approach; he was very convincing either way. The set worked very well, giving us a very clear picture immediately of where we were. The photomontage at the beginning was interesting, and helped to set the background for the situation; but the style did not continue, and in a sense, contributed to the unfinished feeling of this production.

So once again, we have a sixty-five-ish minute production masquerading as a full evening’s entertainment. Please, let’s return to full length plays.


Facts by Arthur Milner Running time: 67 minutes Production reviewed April 22, 2010 8 pm

Facts By Arthur Milner
A Great Canadian Theatre Company and New Theatre of Ottawa co-production
Directed by Patrick McDonald


Kris Joseph: Danny
Sam Kalilieh: Khalid
John Koensgen: Yossi

Creative team:
Set and lighting designer: Martin Conboy
Set design associate; Yvan Cazabon
Costume designer: Sarah Waghorn
Stage manager: Jean Vanstone Osborn
Apprentice stage manager: Chantal Hayman
Assistant director: Patrick Gauthier

Production crew:
Sound operator: Jon Carter
Lighting operator: Darryl Bennett
Head scenic painter: Stephanie Dahmer
Head of wardrobe: GeneviEve Gauthier

Kevin Kenny
Sean Lamothe

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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