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Chained to the walls in a grimy Beirut basement, three men—a Brit, an Irishman, an American—wonder why they’re here and whether they’ll survive. Frank McGuinness’ desperation-tinged, self-consciously theatrical 1992 play, staged with assurance for Catalyst Theater Company by Christopher Gallu, isn’t the freshest show on local stages— actually it’s not even the only hostage drama, what with Lee Blessing’s Two Rooms over at Theater Alliance. Nor does it concern itself particularly with the specifics of that why and that whether: It never clarifies who might have captured the threesome, or why one, luckier than the others, is eventually released, or what gets one of them killed. Indeed, ambiguity is so central to McGuinness’ theme that both captors and execution remain resolutely offstage, leaving the remaining two prisoners to reflect that they don’t even know for sure that their former cellmate is dead—only that they (though not we) have seen their jailers weeping. Metaphysics matter more than specifics here, and McGuinness focuses intently on the psychology that keeps men struggling and keeps them sane when there’s no certainty about the next moment, no sign whatsoever that hope makes any sense. And struggle these three certainly do: Deprived of paper, they write letters aloud to loved ones and lost loves alike. Deprived of books (aside from the Bible and the Koran) and other entertainments, they film their own movies, with squared-finger viewfinders and fist-crank film cylinders, in the styles of Peckinpah and Attenborough and more. The production isn’t quite as rich as it might be: Dan Via’s confident, rangy performance as the show’s volatile Irish journalist, together with an entertainingly pressurized, surprisingly subtle take on the weak-kneed English academic courtesy of Cecil Baldwin (a versatile actor, fast becoming one to watch), tip the balance away from Christopher Janson’s stolid American doctor. But Alexander Cooper’s dank basement set lends a grim and claustrophobic authenticity to the proceedings (it’s one of the best-realized environments I’ve seen yet in the Catalyst space at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop), and Gallu and his cast certainly communicate what would seem to be one of the play’s central concerns: When you can’t learn anything about the hows and whys of the world whirling about you, it can be a comfort, of sorts, to learn a little something about yourself.—Trey Graham