Shit Happens. And Then You Drive On.
As the audience listens to Gimme Shelter by "The Rolling Stones" the stage reading actors rise as one and march up and around the platform that each will read from at several points in the evening and to their chairs. Director Justin Reinsilber (who was just made artistic director at NY Rep which put this performance on) tried to make this seem edgy; it seemed to staged and robotic, however. "War Words" which was performed for one night in New York City and will perform this Thursday in Los Angels, is written by award-winning playwright Michelle Kholos Brooks. Brooks won the Susan Glaspell Award for "Hitler's Tasters as well as Festival Fringe Edinburgh for "Hitler's Tasters" Her play, "War Words" takes us through the different lives of different soldiers' of different theaters of the military. Throughout the evening we are given many fact:"0.5% of the entire population here serve in the military; that most soldier's feel the call to serve, rather than being drafted; that IED's kill more soldiers and property than anything else combined.
Michelle Kholos Brooks gives us a mixture of inter- personal knowledge as well as a history of the people standing before us, she also gives us a smattering of all four branches of our military; we hear from a Chaplin, an Afghan interpreter and a person in intelligence. It is creative and informative to hear the many sides that makeup what a war looks like and what war is. These soldiers do not complain, they are a band of brothers who look after one another, would die for one another; where respect and honor for one's fellow soldier is a key too success in any war.
How do soldiers come to be soldiers? In the beginning of this roughly 90 minute play, Brooks has many of the cast tell us how they joined the armed services: some were tech geeks, some were slackers in school, others needed to find themselves but they all came to join something that was for the greater good. 9/11 had many in our country very upset, recruitment was at an all time high in the U.S.; people wanted revenge on the terrorists who brought down the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. Americans were fearful of WMD's that Saddam Hussein possessed (which may or may not have been true). In the wartime period of Iraq/ Afghanistan, Brooks educates us on terms like "green on blue", how friendly soldiers in the Middle East are made to kill American soldiers or have their families face death; how little children are packed with bombs and made to détente them on American soldiers.
Brooks further explores the woman in the military and their challenges of not only being soldiers but the human side that they face as well... mothers, daughters, individuals of sexual predication and the differences between they and men in the military. The stories that they tell are as real and effective as the clap and boom that the actors perform every time a bomb goes off; the feeling as real as the PTSD that many of soldiers face when they return home. Further brought to light is the botched operations and miss diagnosis that many soldiers receive; the over medication, the under medication, many times leading to undue violence toward loved ones.
Whether a soldier has to take "The Long Walk", decode messages, take out the enemy from the sky, stay up all night watching the enemy from a battle ship, the author has brought out the many variables about fighting a war. At times the play get's philosophical, at other times it is psychological, but for the most part it is both entertaining and enlightening. I am not sure, however that this play could be anything more than a stage reading type of play. It could not be a traditional play I do not think where actors would act out the parts on a stage, it would only work in the form in which it was done; in a row where actors sit and wait for their chance to get up and speak when it is their lines.
About the Creator
I have been writing on theater since 1982. A graduate from Manhattan College B.S. A member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both English and Science. I have produced 14 shows on and off Broadway. I've seen over700 shows