It’s the first rule for conducting an investigation, and the toughest — keep the suspects separate. That way they can’t coordinate their stories, and the interrogator can create fear and spread confusion by reporting selectively on what the others may or may not have said. This is why the separation of suspects has traditionally made such a strong point of departure on stage; few situations offer such inherent theatricality. In The English Bride, the new three-person play by Lucile Lichtblau, the investigator is a Mossad officer named Dov, played ably and with conviction by Ed Giron. The crime involves an act of terrorism against an El Al flight out of London, and the suspects are Eileen, an inexperienced British woman (Leslie Gangl Howe), and Ali, a mysterious Arab man visiting England from Israel (William Waxman).
As can be inferred from the title, Eileen believes she is on her way to getting married, and the play gradually allows the audience into the web of deceit that has been woven around her in order to create that impression. Howe delivers a finely calibrated and extremely moving portrait of a woman grabbing desperately at what appears to be her only chance at happiness, while Waxman offers a convincing account of someone caught between playing a role and enjoying a human connection. The success of the drama largely depends on the degree to which the actors earn our sympathy, and both Howe and Waxman pull it off. The writing throughout is strong, and with these three top actors on board, The English Bride represents a great opportunity for Santa Barbara audiences to experience an original new play as it begins what will likely be a long life in the theater.