The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Torture, terrorism, and paranoia

Felicity wakes up next to a man she can’t remember marrying. Zamir, her apparent husband, insists that the previous night they met at a Hooters, got drunk, and hitched up. None of this is helped by Zamir’s possibly being a terrorist.

Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them is a dark comedy that will be staged by Dreamwell Theater on Friday and run through Feb. 28 at the Unitarian Universalist Center, 10 S. Gilbert St. Performances will start at 7:30 p.m. each day.

Director Adeara Maurice said Why Torture is Wrong highlights the “fear-based culture” surrounding terrorism and homeland security in post-9/11 America.

“It’s about a woman who brings her new, crazy, possibly violent husband home to meet the parents, who suspect him to be a terrorist,” Maurice said. “For me, this play is about these characters’ insecurities, defense mechanisms, and the flaws that make them human.”

Over the course of Felicity’s visit with her suspicious parents, the audience is introduced to a mother who seems a little too fond of the theater and a father who seems to be connected to a shadow government.

“This show is basically a menagerie of odd ducks,” said Regan Loula, the actor portraying Felicity. “There are numerous larger-than-life personalities, ranging from fun eccentricity to seemingly dangerous. My character is surrounded continuously by insanity and has to find a way to muddle through it without going crazy herself.”

The cast and crew said each character inhabits a moral gray area, leaving no clear villain. Still, Benjamin Alley, the actor playing Zamir, said he had trouble inhabiting a character with so many less-than-savory beliefs.

“A lot of the struggle for me was the character’s idea that women are subservient to men,” he said. “Every character is the hero of his own story, and that’s what he thinks is right. For me, that idea is unacceptable.”

To help him embody a character capable of going from charming to outraged in an instant, Alley composed a playlist of songs he believed his character might listen to, including songs from Eminem’s first two albums.

“You have to find the circumstance where you believe it’s OK, to look in the mirror [and] put yourself in the mindset of this character,” he said.

Loula said Why Torture is Wrong adds to an ongoing conversation sparked by the release of the CIA “torture report” in 2014, publicly detailing the ways in which American agencies detain and interrogate prisoners, from sleep deprivation to “rectal feeding.”

“The importance of the difference between security and paranoia is one of the major themes of the play,” Loula said. “It was educational to discuss this issue with my castmates and incorporate our opinions into the workings of the show. This also means that, although it’s a comedy, there were times when things got somewhat heavy. These elements combined with personal work made it a powerful experience.”