250 Word Reviews: War

Originally published on 250 Word Reviews.

(Off-Broadway at LCT3)

So much of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s latest is summed up in its name, War. The title simultaneously refers to a family at odds with each other, the aftereffects of a grandfather’s WWII military service, and a look at how what was (“war” in German) affects what is. The family in question is anchored by Charlayne Woodard as Roberta, a mother felled by stroke, who speaks to the audience from within the cage of her mind as she tries to piece together who might need her to return to the world of the living. Who needs each other in a family is the bigger question of the play, as siblings (Chris Myers and Rachel Nicks) disagree about their mother’s treatment – and each others’ life choices. Michele Shay and Austin Durant’s appearance as strangers claiming to be hitherto-unheard-of family members in need should complicate the ethical discussion, but the play seems to take clear sides, going so far as to end with a long speech from the elder stranger (Shay) that shows everyone the errors of their ways and knits them into a happy family unit. The play suggests that “need” was never the right frame for asking these questions at all, and beyond need might lay a more potent framework for family.

Strong performances (particularly from Woodard) and a touch of heightened theatricality help War rise above the average American family drama. Director Lileana Blain-Cruz beautifully balances the play’s realism and metatheatrics, drawing the audience into the play both literally and figuratively.

Production photo by Erin Baiano. Pictured (l-r): Charlayne Woodard, Reggie Gowland, Rachel Nicks, Michele Shay, and Chris Myers.

Talkin’ Broadway: The Trojan Whore

Originally published on Talkin’ Broadway.

Lonnie McAdoo and Jason Myatt

Did you hear about the unwinnable war being fought for personal reasons that went on for far too long? Yeah, me too. And so, apparently, have the folks at the Mill 6 Collaborative, who are currently presenting The Trojan Whore, a new comedy by Sean Michael Welch all about that war. That’s right, I was talking about the Trojan War, you silly readers.

If you thought the above paragraph was arch and clever, you’re in for a treat with Sean Michael Welch’s play. If, however, you’re tired of loose metaphors for the Bush administration’s policies disguised as political theatre, you might want to stay away.

Even for those of us tired of preachy, anti-Bush shows, there is a lot to recommend in The Trojan Whore. John Edward O’Brien has staged the work effectively in the tiny, 30-seat Devanaughn Theatre at the Piano Factory, emphasizing the personal conflicts that underlie national battles. The cast is uniformly talented, eliciting their fair share of laughs and even a bit of pathos.  Continue reading