25 September 2008

New Iraq Play at Temple, Can it Not Be Terrible?

Please Don't Be This Lame

There's a play opening at Temple University called "In Conflict", which uses taped conversations with returned Iraq veterans to portray the war onstage. This is much more insight into the perspective of a soldier than colossal flops like Redacted and Stop Loss ever tried to seek out, so it's worth at least checking out. IHT has the review:

Chambers also plays Darryl Anderson, now AWOL in Canada, who calls himself a "terrorist," for his actions in Iraq, and says he's really helping "make the Iraqi people's lives better" by speaking out against the war.

Damon Williams is particularly poignant as Herold Noel, badly affected by his part in one of the more horrible stories told, an encounter with a woman carrying a baby.

Sean Lally is notable in two roles, one as Ivan Medina, an army chaplain, who returned safely from Iraq but grieves for his twin brother Irving, who was killed there. Lally also portrays Robert Acosta, an army specialist who lost his right hand when he tried to toss an incoming grenade back out of the car he was riding in. Acosta says he liked being in the army "until Iraq came," and blasts the Department of Veterans Affairs for initially denying his medical claims for PTSD and a serious leg injury.

This play seems to be falling into the trap of thinking the most flamboyantly vocal of the veterans groups (IVAW) speaks for all veterans. Their strong anti-war ethos helps fuel the artists preconceived notions that have been more than likely been cultivated in some left-leaning college news rag. I'm not saying every interpretation of conflict should play out like the uber-propaganda flick "Triumph of the Will", but I think people only view veterans out of political convenience at this point in American history. A black hole of cognitive dissonance where only voices they want to hear are heard and splashed across marquees.

Maybe this play will be good, but the really excellent characterizations of the Iraq war aren't going to come out until veterans finish up their schooling in the arts and become part of the cultural mainstream. Some of the best Vietnam movies, like Platoon, Born on the 4th of July and Hamburger Hill, were actually directed or written by Vietnam vets. So we may just have to rest on our laurels with that crummy DVD copy of Home of the Brave until something decent comes along. Sigh.