REVIEW: Is This A Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription

Five years, three months: the longest sentence ever given for leaking classified information to media sources. This is Reality Winner’s punishment for her confessed involvement in the spread of private documents regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential election. Given this record, are we not obligated to ask questions? Does this historical event not deserve to be emphasized, elevated to a position of art?

This play is thoughtful, unassuming in its simplicity. Art written in the moment of speaking, the best kind. The liberty they took with the background score was a little heavy for me sometimes, especially when it went on for prolonged periods below speech. We are already invested in the story, so the added dramatic tones were only distracting, kind of like a soap opera.

Still I was struck by how baldly pained actress Emily Davis’ expression was throughout the play, perfecting the panicked mix of emotions Reality Winner must have been feeling at the time. The FBI agents were not heavily dichotomized in tone, which was a relief, but instead reflected flawed humanity rather than stereotype.

But is the act of turning Reality into a play just, or some kind of spectacle-making that preys on her turmoil while wearing the disguise of the artist? Is there enough of an argument against ordinary journalism’s story-driven (and thus not always compassionate) tendencies for the theatre medium to survive? Provocative titles to articles like “Does Reality Winner ‘Hate America?'” seem to provide evidence for one. Other

In making the script a verbatim transcription of the interrogation, do we lose valuable insight into the case? There is zero analysis of the events here, nor is there any real background information beyond online and program literature. The point was, I guess, for the audience to draw their own thoughts together about the case, with only the absolute barest bones with which to work.

The trouble I have with this strategy is that no one in the audience is truly coming in with no background knowledge and/or opinions related to the case. Even those not exposed to media stories about Winner have no doubt heard the countless reports on collusion in the election, forming and borrowing speculations on the truth. Even the baseline action of creating this play is a statement that this story is hers, and deserves telling; that the outcome may not have been a rational one.

I suppose still that in our information age there is no real neutral ground. We are exposed to so much media, tinted with biases coming from every direction, mixing with our own, and coming out the other side a completely unique concoction. It’s easy to become confused with what our beliefs are based on. So a verbatim transcription of an interrogation, regardless of its background tunes, is probably as close to perfect as we’re going to get. Thankfully we see enough value in the honest truth to produce this kind of play, and for it to be so well-received. What a curious thing.


Emma Pinchak

I'm just a lonely cowboy displaced in the city. I don't feel the same under these dim stars.

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