By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
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“Both Clinton and Obama spoke of Iran as a nation pursuing nuclear weapons, despite the CIA report that there is no evidence of a weapons program today. Iran has a nuclear-enrichment program that is authorized by the United Nations and signed off by Iran and the United States. Iran poses no threat to the United States. This is not a war of necessity. We’ll regret this decision. But the American people have been imprinted, as they were last time.”
To make his larger points, however, Ritter speaks in allegories. Example: Because we love firefighters doesn’t mean we love fire. No, we arrest arsonists. Because we love our soldiers doesn’t mean we have to love war. But America does love war, at least the idea of winning one. There is no viable antiwar movement in this country, Ritter says, and there has to be in order for anything to change — that, and the replacement of all members of Congress who voted for the war in Iraq. Disapproval of the war reflected in the polls is not a reflection of our antipathy to war, Ritter argues, but of our antipathy to losing a war. Were we not stranded in a quagmire, few would be questioning the rationale or the legality of the 2003 invasion.
So now we’ll bomb Iran to punish it for the 30-year natural-gas contract it struck with China, Ritter says.
“Our aggression is to dictate the terms of development of China and India through the Middle East. Global empire is what we need to be frightened of. All empires end, most empires badly. I don’t want this for my country.”
At Santa Monica’s City Garage, Charles Duncombe’s adaptation of Heiner Müller’s text The Mission, which Duncombe retitled The Mission (Accomplished), takes Müller’s saga of three French insurgents (Troy Dunn, Bo Roberts and David Mack) in 1798 who tried to instigate a slave rebellion in British-ruled Jamaica, then juxtaposes that poem about regime change gone awry with images of a ruminative George W. Bush (John Deschamps), Donald Rumsfeld (David E. Frank), Dick Cheney (Roberts) and an American soldier in Iraq (Maximiliano Molina). Punching such a hole in the wall of history is a technique Duncombe endeavored in a 2001 adaptation of a different Müller text, Frederick of Prussia: George W.’s Dream of Sleep. The two productions are City Garage’s bookends to the Bush II presidency and could, taken together, be called Empire Lost.
Duncombe sails on stormy artistic waters, imposing a topical American context onto Müller’s historical allegory. Every rule in the book says this should fail, like those productions of Julius Caesar in which the title character emerges wearing a U.S. flag pin and throws the word nucular into the prose. Yet Duncombe pulls it off, largely because his own writing style matches Müller’s careful and tender poeticism. The other lifeboat comes from director Frédérique Michel, who guides the American portraits away from caricature.
Aside from that, Michel’s production is as visually elegant and erotic as the text is intellectually rigorous. Wonderful performances come from by Ishani Das, Cynthia Mance and Amanda Mayen. How a portrait of such brutality can emerge so sensually is a trick that defies description. There’s a subtle hint in this production that matches Ritter’s sentiments: that the end of empire need not mean the end of the world; life’s richness and beauty can persevere, if we allow it.
THE MISSION (ACCOMPLISHED) | Adapted by CHARLES DUNCOMBE from the text by HEINER MÜLLER | Presented by CITY GARAGE, 134O½ Fourth Street (west alley), Santa Monica | Through June 1 | (310) 319-9939
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