Based on the true tale of a mother’s dogged attempts to free her son, HOSTAGE takes the abstract political and turns it into the very personal – and often painful – account of Barbara Timm, a Midwestern housewife who will do anything to help free her 19-year-old first-born. When Kevin Hermening, a Marine guard at the American Embassy in Iran, was taken hostage, his distraught but determined mother flew to Teheran in April 1980 and demanded to see him. Under the shadow of an impending travel ban and at great risk to her own safety, she refused to sit back and wait for two governments to enter into lengthy negotiations – which, in fact, dragged on for 444 days.
This is the journey of Barbara Timm (Tracie Lockwood), a mother who won’t take no for an answer, a mother who is ready to fight tooth and nail for her child. But it is also the story of Kevin Hermening (Zachary Grant), who shines as her miserable but also proud son during the worst days of his life. So too is HOSTAGE the tale of his birth father Richard Hermening (Christopher Hoffman) and his stepfather Kenny Timm (Jack Clinton). Rounding out the powerful cast are Kevin’s captors, Ebrahim (Satiar Pourvasei) and Tehran Mary (Vaneh Assadourian). Both sides fervently believe in their cause – but can two diametrically opposed views co-exist?
When politically naïve Barbara flies to Iran, she doesn’t know what to expect. It certainly isn’t meeting Kevin’s U.S. educated student captors, each with a painful past. And it may not even have been seeing her son, reduced to rags, whom she feared was already dead. Juxtaposed into the narrative of her experiences in Iran is her return to the U.S. amidst the backlash from her friends and neighbors, who suspect that she is an Iranian spy. Every time she opens her mouth to utter a message of conciliaton, she seems to dig a deeper hole for herself. Meanwhile, Kevin’s two fathers seem to be trying to turn the tragic event into a competition.
Playwright Michelle Kholos Brooks does a superb job of getting into Barbara Timm’s head and heart as she plows through unfamiliar territory with only one agenda – to protect her son in the only way she knows how. Director Elina De Santos takes this heart-wrenching and intense report of people under maximum stress and compassionately guides her principals through a minefield of emotions as they attempt to deal with the unexpected and impossible. Each character will remain indelibly wrought by the strong portrayals of the actors in the piece. Above all, talented Tracie Lockwood is remarkable and memorable as she brings Barbara Timm to life, warts and all.
Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s stark scenic design underscores the almost hopeless quest of each of the principals. Brian Gale’s lighting, Christopher Moscatiello’s sound, and Naila Aladdin Sanders’ costumes make history leap from the page. HOSTAGE is a formidable and potent report about diverse people and different cultures who somehow reach a kind of rapprochement. This is a poignant, thought-provoking play with lots of acting muscle helmed by a fierce director and an effective script. Kudos to all involved for bringing a piece of history to life – while at the same time delving into the intensely personal backstory.
HOSTAGE runs through July 22, 2018, with performances THROUGH JUNE 24 at 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, at 2 p.m. on Sundays, and at 8 p.m. on Mondays. AFTER JUNE 24, performances are at 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 ½ North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90027. Tickets range from $15 to $39.99. For information and reservations, call 213-761-7061 or go online.