This provocative play about behavior in wartime is not for the faint of heart
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., July 16, 2010
City Theatre, 3823-D Airport, 832/257-5173, www.citytheatreaustin.org
Through July 18
Running time: 1 hr., 5 min.
If you're faint of heart, don't go near a Mark Ravenhill play. Ravenhill writes tales that hold a gun to your heart and shoot you in the soul, but leave you alive so you can feel every last drop of pain.
In this play, originally performed in 2007 and titled Ravenhill for Breakfast, he writes about people in that most extreme of situations – war – then flips those violent situations around, using colloquial language to contrast with the horror of reality.
The play is really three short plays, all revolving around one country invading another in order to overthrow a dictatorship and bring freedom and democracy to the oppressed. In the first play, "Twilight of the Gods," the hungry Susan is interviewed by the somewhat officious Jane. On a table between them sits a cup of coffee and a sweet roll, and as the interview progresses and we find that insurgents are not allowing food through to the "zones" in which Susan is trapped, we also discover that something as simple as an apple can kill those who are starving. Still, even when presented with this knowledge, Susan wants the food. In the second, "Crime and Punishment," a soldier attempts to force a captive woman to tell her that she loves him and to demonstrate that love, threatening her with a gun, then actually shooting her in both of her feet before performing a most unspeakable act as a final compunction. In the third play, "Paradise Lost," Liz is finding it difficult to sleep because of the nightly screaming from an adjacent apartment, so she confronts Ruth, who is gagged and bound to a chair, and asks her to keep the noise to a minimum. Eventually two soldiers enter and begin to torture Ruth in order to extract "names," subsequently attempting to persuade the sleepless Liz to join in. Before and after each of the plays, as the actors change costumes, they speak in a round about eating breakfast, watching television, seeing the bombing and feeling sickened by it, but continuing to go about their everyday lives.
Director Becca Plunkett makes some interesting choices in staging the play, including the use of a live sound operator to accompany the action as well as a slide show featuring famous and infamous painted and photographic images of war. She has quite competent actors presenting the material, with Kristi Brawner standing out as both a perpetrator and two victims. But the real star of the show is Ravenhill's provocative script. Ravenhill uses certain phrases, particularly the phrase "freedom and democracy," over and over again, and while the initial effect of the repetition is cloying, the final effect is powerfully ironic, demonstrating the emptiness of political rhetoric in the face of violent action. Rarely have I seen the truth in the phrase "actions speak louder than words" manifested so compellingly.
Freedom and democracy. You are being bombed. We are sickened. Have a nice day!
Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat is produced by Out of Context Productions as one of a handful of offerings in the third annual City Theatre Summer Acts! theatre festival. For more information on this and the other plays, go to www.citytheatreaustin.org.