Trapped inside a locked room, an author is mercilessly questioned and tortured by her captor who believes she is communicating subliminal messages through children's books.

For Rick Myers, who plays the sadistic interrogator, his role in Shot in the Dark's upcoming play "Closet Land" isn't mentally or physically strenuous. But it does take a toll.

"It's emotionally taxing," said Myers. "This is a character that you have to do justice to the role. You have to be this character. And it is so not what I am like."

The difficulty comes from discerning his character's thought processes. His motivations. His history and background. And how his character came to be in this particular situation.

While Myers was rehearsing with co-star Mindy Brinkerhoff, who plays the aforementioned author, the cruelty of his character shone through. The interrogator seemed to enjoy toying with his prey. He needed information and he was willing to do anything to get it.

"My interpretation of this character was he wasn't always like this," said Myers. "The government got a hold of him and they kind of molded him into this. Now he sees this as his life. This is what he does for work, for pleasure and for his enjoyment. There are times when he gets a kick out of what he's doing."

At least, that's Myers' interpretation. But in order for his performance to work, he must rely on his fellow cast member Brinkerhoff. The same can be said for her character's performance.

"You heavily rely on your counterpart because it is just the two of you," she said. "So you can't really rely on anyone else except for that other person and yourself.

"I think it makes it easier to collaborate [in a two-person play]. In a big cast, it's hard to get everyone's input and everyone's thoughts. When it's smaller, you can do things like that. You can stop and say, 'Well, what if I did this?' or 'How would you feel about this?'"

With only two actors carrying a show, Brinkerhoff's and Myers' skills will be put to the test. But the former believes her skills will be a test for a different reason.

"['Closet Land'] is much more serious and a bit darker than other shows I've done," said Brinkerhoff. She added that she's unfazed by the pressure of a two-person play. "You're always striving and pushing to be the best no matter if the cast has 50 people or two people."

The setting almost develops into its own character. "Closet Lane" only takes place in a single room. The details of where these characters are in the outside world are never disclosed. Even the 1991 film of the same name -- from which the stage show is adapted -- never specifies the exact country its characters hail from, heightening the tension and the danger.

"It has a dark, dingy look to it," said Myers. "Almost spooky at times. It's all a part of the mind games."

The room traps its visitors and perhaps even isolates them, mainly the author. Though Brinkerhoff doesn't necessarily agree.

"I personally don't feel that way," she said. "But I can definitely get that feeling, as an audience member, of being in a place that makes you very uncomfortable and knowing that you can't leave."

Myers said the themes and ideas in "Closet Land," though written close to 25 years ago, are still timely to events happening in the world "behind closed doors" and the unsettling thoughts about constant surveillance. It's a psychological thriller through and through.

"One of the things I say in the play is, 'You can't be too careful because even the walls have ears,'" he said. "You could always be under surveillance. They can watch anybody they want, anywhere."


Weekender reporter

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