This review of Cheryl Navo's Lie Of Omission at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Lie Of Omission
Written by Cheryl Navo
Directed by David Dubin
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York
Reviewed 9/6/15 at 2:30 p.m.
Cheryl Navo's first full-length play, Lie of Omission, was selected as a top fourteen finalist for the AACT (American Association of Community Theatre) New Play Fest 2015 before she withdrew it from the competition in order to accept a production contract from Studio Theatre Long Island to have the play's world premiere in Lindenhurst. Ms. Navo has lived over half her life in Germany. First, for three years as an active duty soldier, and then as a civilian for the Department of the Army from which she took early retirement from government service over a year ago. Her husband works for the Department of Defense in Germany. She has spent the last six years experimenting with being an actor, costume designer, set designer, scenic painter, director, and finally, playwright. Ms. Navo has written three one-act plays - Parade of Queens, Hotline, and At What Price. This play also began as a one-act play, but the story quickly expanded beyond the one-act format. It was inspired by a newspaper article she read about an American doctor who was kidnapped in the Middle East. During his rescue, a soldier was killed. She then purposely departed from the details of the true-life case throwing in complications of her own.
Lie Of Omission has a paper thin storyline that is absolutely incredible. When the play opens, we learn that David (David Rifkind), a plastic surgeon volunteering for Doctors Without Borders, was rescued from the Taliban after been held hostage for 5 days. During the rescue, an American soldier died. The doctor, back with his wife Monica (Gail Merzer Behrens) for four months, remains depressed and replays the news reports about the soldier who died over and over again on his laptop computer. He has not returned to work, refuses to speak to a psychiatrist, and has taken up drinking. He also refuses a sign a contract to speak about his ordeal in a tell-all book. Monica discovers a bank account with a half million dollars in it. She, of course, ridiculously assumes he is cheating on her with another woman but David refuses to explain the money until Monica informs him she has signed a contract to write a book about his experiences from her perspective. She, of course, knows nothing and no one would pay her for that, but let's suspend our disbelief if only for a moment. David then decides to reveal his "lie of omission." The truth is that while helping 22 children with free surgery, he accepted a half million dollars to perform plastic surgery on a Taliban leader who was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list. The doctor voluntarily drove into the Taliban Compound, and for all he knew, he would have been let go after his patient recovered (especially since the Taliban had already paid him), but in the meantime, he was "rescued" and his patient was killed by a joint coalition force. Despite the FBI knowing all these details, David somehow still has the half million dollars and was not arrested for providing "material support or resources" to terrorists (which includes "services"), for which he should be required to serve at least 10 years in a federal prison. We are supposed to believe the government just told him not to speak about the incident to anyone.
We learn all the facts I just revealed to you in less time than it took you to read the last paragraph. So what takes up the rest of the two hours in this excruciatingly, slow-moving play? Two superficial subplots, which I personally did not think added anything to the substance or complexity of this play. The first subplot involves Ned (Kevin Ganzekaufer), a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome, who likes counting things and is emotionally detached from those around him. Ned is David's imaginary friend, but he is introduced to us as a neighbor. They traverse the lake on imaginary boats, catch fish with imaginary fishing poles, and have conversations only they can hear. Nothing explains the presence of this character in the play. Ned eventually suggests the dead soldier would have liked David to take care of his wife and three-year-old daughter. David agrees, but it is unlikely he will escape arrest once the slow-moving prosecutorial wheels of justice finally roll up to his doorstep. The second subplot deals with Alice (Frances McGarry), David's mother-in-law who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and comes to live with him and his wife until they can find another Nursing Home for her to move into. She was kicked out of Shady Oaks for sleeping with another man's wife and for starting a fire in her room by smoking after she disconnected the smoke alarm. This opens another completely irrelevant story about how Monica and her sister Sandra (Kathleen Carthy) always sided with their father, over Alice, their mother, and how Alice never liked David because he was always "greedy, selfish, and never satisfied" always more concerned with making money than in his own wife's happiness. Alice did not attend their wedding and, in turn, David always referred to her as the Bitch From Hell (referred to as Bat From Hell in this G-rated play).
Lie Of Omission is full of characters you would never want to meet or have in your life. Ned has no emotional attachment to those around him and is tortured by his father's criticism of him. Alice, the mother-in-law, bitches all day about how her husband cheated on her, but she has no problem having a relationship with another woman's husband. In the play, we are supposed to believe that her lover's hunger strike (and the acquiescence of her lover's wife) led the Shady Oaks Nursing Home administrators to change their minds and to invite her back. We already know how bad David is and it is true he kept some secrets from his nagging, impatient wife but she then proceeds to sign a contract to write a book about his experiences as a hostage from her perspective without discussing that with him in advance, and after she alone changes her mind about wanting a baby, she gets angry at him saying "I am tired of waiting for you to allow me to have a baby." The final disagreeable character in this play is Sandra, Monica's sister, who keeps complaining about Monica leaving the front door open (even though they live in a gated community) and instantly blames her sister when their mom strolled off once for a walk. If Sandra was prepared to take responsibility for their mom, then she should have done so. Otherwise, she needs to keep her mouth shut.
Bad script. Bad story. Bad characters. Bad play. All the good acting in the world could not salvage this turkey, that never really could get off the ground. Perhaps others will see the play from a different perspective and catch things I missed. But I did not hear any enthusiastic applause between scenes and the person who saw the show with me told me he felt the play was depressing and his only regret was that he could not fall asleep during it. I was not impressed with the world premiere of Lie Of Omission, but if you have nothing to do and would like to check it out for yourself before Sunday, September 20, 2015 (tickets cost $25.00), visit www.studiotheatreli.com