Friday, October 21, 2011

ReEntering Unreality

Back from Round House's production last night of ReEntry by Emily Ackerman and KJ Sanchez, a powerful piece on the trauma of returning "home" from war. And "home" is a tricky term; to a Marine, "home" is the Corps, whereas family and the complacency of people bitching about who's on Dancing with the Stars is the surreal unreality.

The staging of interwoven monologues is not my favorite dramaturgical choice (see also The Carpetbagger's Children, for instance). The characters--a mom, a sister, their two sons/brothers, a C.O., and others portrayed by the five actors--were built from interviews, so the reality was embedded. But the lack of interaction between the characters is a step away from the reality (or simulation of reality) in witnessing human relationships in real time. Add the actory voices, and it seems too unreal.

Even the chin-mikes to allow the actors to be heard by the audience without straining their voices was a check on reality to me. And because there's the phenomenon known in science--that the act of observing alters the experiment--I didn't get a sense of what the real reality would be for these characters after they stopped talking to the interviewers recording their stories.

Still, there was a lot to this very strong production. I could relate to the idea of children going to war when the C.O. talked about what he tells parents who are sending their children into this real danger just after they've graduated from high school. I thought of myself at 18 dealing with something like the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. I wouldn't have had a clue what that reality would do to me.


And despite the lack of interaction between the characters, there was real poignance to the stories they told about each other. The sister, of course, I could relate to. She speaks at the end of how her brother told her to stay put in her apartment if "shit comes down" again like 9/11, and he would beat a path of destruction to her door to evac her. Any sister of any brother would want to hear just that, and probably has heard it more than she even can remember.

Liz (sister)/Suzanne: Jessi Blue Gormezano
John (older son/brother)/Pete: Brandon Jones
Mom/Maria: Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris
C.O.: Larry Mitchell
Charlie (younger son/brother)/Tommy: Ben Rosenblatt

Directed by KJ Sanchez.
Plays at the Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Maryland, through October 30.

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