REVIEW by Willard Manus

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND -- LIDLESS, the provocative new play by the young Asian-American writer Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, is aptly titled, if only because it lifts the lid on the dark, festering mess of the crimes committed by the USA at its Guantanomo Bay prison. Cowhig's story, which packs enough action into its 70-minute time frame to make for two full-length dramas, crackles with intensity and conflict from start to finish.

LIDLESS is a complex work, one which digs deep into character and situation, making the audience think as much as it feels. It was certainly the best thing I saw at the recently-concluded 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Director Steven Atkinson has cleverly staged the piece, placing it onstage at the Underbelly Pasture Theatre and requiring the audience to sit on tiny stools in a kind of corrugated shed (designed by Takis, built by Factory Settings) which in its starkness resembles a cell at Guantanomo. The actors perform just inches from the audience, which makes for an intense, visceral kind of intimacy.

The story, essentially a series of mounting confrontations, unfolds swiftly and pungently, thanks to Cowhig's crisp, staccato-like dialogue. We meet Alice (Penny Layden), a former interrogator at Gitmo, now married to Lucas (Christian Bradley) and the mother of a teenager, Rhiannon (Greer Daale-Foulkes). All three are wounded, vulnerable souls whose tenuous links to each other are tested when Bashir (the superb Anthony Bunsee) shows up, fifteen years after he was imprisoned at Gitmo as a suspected terrorist.

Bashir was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing by the USA and released, but he hasn't forgotten the brutal way he was treated by his captors--especially Alice and her sidekick, an Iraqi-born doctor named Riva (Nathalie Armin).

LIDLESS sheds a bold light on the sordid, disgraceful mess that was Gitmo--and on the physical and psychic damage that was inflicted on all those who spent time there, both prisoner and jailor alike. Myriad dark, long-buried psycho-sexual secrets are exhumed--with startling and shattering results. (