Arena Stage’s latest political production tells the story of the private life of a woman who was involved in a very public post-9/11 scandal.
“Intelligence” is a fictionalized version of the life of Valerie Plame, the former CIA operations officer, and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, a former ambassador.
The play shows the conflict between Plame’s conviction that she’s working in the best interests of her country and her husband’s assertion that her conviction is based on a lie.
It opens with intelligence operatives reacting to the 9/11 terror attacks, then fast-forwards to 2003, when Plame is working with an Iraqi agent to try to confirm Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program.
Over the course of the production, Plame is outed by Washington Post columnist Robert Novak and ostracized by the agency while her husband becomes one of the most high-profile critics of the premise that President George W. Bush’s administration’s war in Iraq was built on a lie. Once Plame leaves the agency, she finds truth in her husband’s argument.
The play also uses video clips of Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Colin Powell making statements in the run-up to the Iraq War that are eventually proved wrong and shows the Bush administration in an unflattering light.
But the focus is on Plame and her inner struggles at the time.
A mother of young twins, she’s basically ceded the parenting to her husband because of the demands of her job. Their relationship is affected by the things she can’t talk about in the little time she has for her family.
Plame and Wilson are also portrayed as Georgetown socialites. When she suggests to her boss that she might still not be recognizable even after her cover is blown, her boss says her social life has made continuing in her CIA role impossible.
And while she struggles with her life at home, she’s weighed down by the responsibility she feels for the Iraqi agent and the promise she made to his niece, a dressmaker in Washington, to protect him.
Plame promises that wherever the CIA sends her uncle, she will go with him. But she can’t honor the promise after her supervisor won’t allow her travel with him. Plame is eventually devastated by the way the operation plays out.
“Intelligence” runs through April 9 at Arena Stage (1101 Sixth St. SW).