Protected, written and directed by Timothy Scott Harris, is about the sacrifices people choose to make for their loved ones, and the new directions these lives take as a result. We meet Langley Peterson (Jeff Paul) just as he has begun a new life, transplanted from New York to Albuquerque as part of the Witness Protection Program. Mourning the life he left behind (for reasons audience members can discover on their own) and fearing new connections he might have to make, Peterson keeps himself at a distance from others. But those pesky others just won’t leave him alone! His neighbor Mirna (Cam Kornman) snoops on him and then tries to play yenta with her OCD daughter Debra (Dee Dee Friedman), who has also rejected a life in New York to come to her mother’s aid. Langley’s new colleague, Matt (Matt Walker) is anxious to find a friend and thinks he might be able to win one over in the new arrival. Langley, meanwhile, is still trying to reconcile himself to this new life.
Harris shows a nimble hand as director, guiding the show along at a laconic pace and letting his actors be. But what he has written is more situation than story. Protected feels more like the pilot episode of a television series – Lost in the Southwest, perhaps? – than a complete work. We’re watching a group of quirky characters come together, setting the stage for future hijinks and misunderstandings (a major thread involving Langley unwittingly inviting Dee Dee to a gay bar gets way too much attention here). Still, the cast makes these off-kilter characters likable, especially Paul, who makes Langley appear as though he could come unhinged at any second. It’s a group that makes life in Albuquerque seem pretty darn tolerable.
Protected is part of the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.