BWW Review: Diplomacy Demands Charisma in Helen Banner's INTELLEGENCE
"Before I walk in the room, I remember who I am," explains rising hotshot negotiator Sarah in Helen Banner's new drama. "I'm American. And I'm a woman, an attractive woman, divorced, successful, ambitious, sometimes on the news, going somewhere, from nowhere..."
And although the title of the play is INTELLIGENCE, that quality isn't a part of her self-description, making "attractive" stand out just a bit more.
The three-person play set in a State Department conference room has Sarah (Rachel Pickup), supervising two promising young diplomats in a two-week assignment to create a classified secret document titled "Guidelines for the Resolution of Conflict in Intractable Global Situations."
The sharply energetic and charismatic Sarah recently made headlines by, as one of the young colleagues puts it, pulling a peace settlement "out of nothing" in an unnamed country saturated by terrorists.
Athletic and enthused Lee (Kaliswa Brewster), who adds some glam touches to her standard work attire, is excited to have been chosen to work with someone she sees as "an example of what confidence in your function can do."
Paige (Amelia Pedlow), whose decidedly plain appearance seems calculated to call no attention to her physical self, is less impressed.
"Maybe I've just gotten allergic to 'star' power," she quips.
Diplomacy as branding seems to be the topic, as Sarah gets her points across by putting her temporary staff through a series of role-playing improvs, signaled by snaps of her fingers. Unfortunately, the large conference table and comfy office chairs supplied by designer Carolyn Mraz take up so much stage space that director Jess Chayes has Little Room to work with.
Banner is intentionally vague on the details of anything occurring outside of the conference room, but as the days go by it seems apparent that Sarah's initial success was more of a Band-Aid that has peeled off and Lee and Paige grow concerned that their association with her has become detrimental to their careers.
Perhaps it's the vagueness that leaves the story sapped of tension and a strong dramatic arc. Given that the play and production is completely created by women, this reviewer will readily recognize there may be issues he's missed, but INTELLIGENCE seems promising, but underdeveloped.