DAMAGE OF WAR:
FROM PAGE 37
the unit from seeing a path to defuse the situation. Instead, Jassim becomes a hostage, jeopardizing each character’s future.
We hear back-stories from each soldier, especially Goop and Beed. Goop has been stereotyped as a bad black kid who is suited for violence, while he actually has the personality of a poet. But his anger is gradually overcoming his goodness and undermining his common sense. Beed, raised in a conservative, traditional home (despite her tomboyish memories) recalls Bible stories and connects them to the land where the war is being fought. Her unlikely discovery of a baby in a basket (whom she names Moses) gives Militant Language a mythic overlay that underscores the universality of the message.
The cumulative effect of conflict — like the sand that slowly, steadily rains from the sky, permeates the air and afflicts Goop — is devastating.
As happens in war, things don’t go well, and Militant Language has a searing outcome, demonstrating the troublesome repetition of violence that begets more violence. That’s a challenge with a play like this, which states the obvious, provides us with some insight but then stumbles with what to make us do with the information beyond shake our heads over the horror of it all. Director Jason Bruffy keeps the twoact, 100-minute production taut and tense.
Each actor has a moment of revelation, but Lewis’ script needs to provide more connectivity between them, despite the premise of how the pressures of war corrode personal relationships. Predictably, each soldier descends into his or her personal hell, but Lewis’ script too often distills each to a singular emotion — especially the hyperactive Jacks and simple-minded Wallace.
Know has assembled a talented group of actors for its 2008-2009 season. Ipaye is forceful and gutwrenching as the troubled Goop. Brown reveals the challenges of a woman in uniform. Bhatt, a member of Know’s 2007-2008 company, offers a telling contrast to the hair-trigger solders: The man accused of terrorism is the calmest person onstage. Groh, a veteran of several local stages, brings a solid maturity to the role of the cynical captain.
Know deserves support for bringing forward a work like this during a political season. It’s worth seeing; you’ll have things to talk about afterward. Thanks to a generous grant from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr. Foundation, all seats for Know’s productions this season are just $12. Get one and pay attention to some Militant Language.
To see the actors who play the four soldiers in entirely different roles, catch Know’s second fall production, Reefer Madness: The Musical, being performed in a rotating schedule with Militant Language through mid-November. ©