By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Nor do things always quite ring true. Fredericks is presented as a caring father, yet he leaves a loaded gun around the home he shares with a psychologically disturbed daughter who’s one degree removed from playing with little glass animals. He’s a trained investigator, yet is clueless until Bianca tells him that she’s been sleeping around with half the base’s enlisted men — and then he lets her off with a don’t-do-it-again admonition. He’s similarly sloppy and forgiving of her reading the secret files he brings home on the massacre case. Then there’s Fredericks’ improbable use of the coffeehouse as an ad hoc headquarters — Bitterman’s put him there, obviously, so he can be overheard by Durrell, who happens to be present, but this coincidence only stretches credulity even further.
Director Steve Zuckerman makes sure this production unfolds in a surprisingly leaden atmosphere. He has Stehlin act as though drained of life, which matches Rachel Myers’ monochrome-gray set of concretized walls and steel furniture — a celebration of Orwellian conformity that doesn’t match the war of opinions and personalities that sparks this play. Lowes nevertheless turns in an affecting performance as the sensuous innocent, Bianca, while Bowen is likeable as lovestruck and AWOL Nick. Allen is deliciously vile in his brief appearance as Sammy Havesford, Nick’s young sergeant from the massacre in Iraq, and the play needs more of his character’s malevolently carefree spirit, which is now only hinted at when he frenetically speaks to Nick of their time together in war.
The Iraq conflict is a subtler, more difficult war to explain onstage than our Indochina adventure. Not because we are a more sophisticated people than we were during the Vietnam War, but because without the military draft, Iraq, like global warming, is something that mostly happens to other people — and anyway, we think, there’s nothing we can really do about it. The domestic moral damage caused by Iraq is deceptively containable because it’s not accompanied by the kind of social revolution that terrified middle America during the 1960s. Like Major Fredericks, what we forget is the common national ground that those tumultuous years turned to quicksand is Iraq’s starting point — and we are now a country on a permanent adrenalin dump.
HARM’S WAY | By SHEM BITTERMAN | CIRCUS THEATRICALS STUDIO THEATER at the Hayworth, 643 S. Carondelet St., L.A. | Through February 9 | (323) 960-1054