BWW Reviews: FEAR UP HARSH Delivers on its Promise

By: Nov. 18, 2013

Fear Up Harsh, written by Christopher Demos-Brown and directed by Zoetic Stage's Stuart Meltzer, was highly anticipated on the Miami theater scene -- and it does not disappoint. Demos-Brown is a Carbonell Award winner, and his plays are known for being tightly crafted, eloquent, and smart. Fear Up Harsh is all of those things. It's also timely and powerfully acted.

The set, designed by Jodi Dellaventura, is compact, and as appropriately jagged as Demos-Brown's dialogue is crisp. While we wait for the lights to dim and the play to begin, we are already living in the harsh cinder block dust that the play's title foreshadows. "Fear Up Harsh" is a term used by the military meant to describe "enhanced interrogation."

The play tells the story of Iraq War veteran and "hero," Rob Wellman, who comes home to the greatest laurel of all -- the congressional Medal of Honor -- an honor that tarnishes as the play's storyline evolves to expose the reality and trauma that war truly leaves in its trail. Rob's wife has left him and, meanwhile, his teenage daughter , charmingly played by Jessica Brooke Sanford, is trying to find herself in her father's shadow. But that's not all, the greatest threat and the central conflict of the play enter when U.S. Army Corporal Mary Jean Boudreaux shows up at Rob's house, carrying with her a secret that could destroy Rob's life.

Boudreaux is the deepest and most layered character in the play. And the audience feels this profoundly, mostly because she is so brilliantly played by Karen Stephens, who shines in this role. Through Boudreaux, the complexities of honor, passion, race, morality, and patriotism play out before us. Stephens, through her portrayal of Boudreaux, brings the battlefield home to mingle with Dellaventura's set, and allows us to see the scars, both literally and figuratively, that America has both given and received post 9/11.

If you have not seen this show yet, you still have a chance -- don't miss it. It plays for one last weekend at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in the Carnival Studio Theater. It closes November 24 (go to or for tix and more info).