Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: (Toronto) This is War

Lisa Berry, Ari Cohen (photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)

The Dogs of War
by Beat Rice

I like going into shows blind, without doing any research on what kind of show it is, because it allows for more surprises. You know you’re in for a surprise as soon as you walk into the Extraspace for Hannah Moscovitch’s This is War. The set, or installation in the black box theatre, extends further than the playing area, forcing the audience to be part of the action. Set Designer Camellia Koo creates an intimate, intense space for four characters; a Captain, a Master Corporal, a Sergeant, and a Private. 

The play is structured in an episodic manner with flashbacks that show the before and after from different perspectives. The present time is shown through intermittent scenes of interviews with the audience having to make up the interviewer’s side of the dialogue. Director Richard Rose stages the changes in time in a consistent manner so we are never confused. The burdens of war for each individual are slowly revealed as the story pieces together. We find out how these characters came to be carrying guilt, trauma, responsibility, and even love. Most interestingly, we see how the characters try to cope with the emotional baggage carried from their work and the inevitable tension created back at base within the platoon. 

Leading this particular platoon is Captain Stephen Hughes, played by Ari Cohen. Although some of his intentions are unclear, he is a strong protective leader who takes full responsibility for his men. The medic, Sergeant Chris Anders, is the voice of reason in the play. Sergio Di Zio does an excellent job playing a sharp, yet funny man stuck in the middle of everyone else’s drama. On every team there is the kid, in this case it is 20-year-old Private Jonny Henderson. Actor Ian Lake captures the small town boy’s naïveté and innocence, even in complete darkness. Lisa Berry plays Master Corporal Tanya Young, who carries guilt from an error in a past mission, which comes out as pure rage. It was a strange directorial choice, because it became hard to believe that the men of the platoon desired a woman with so much rage. 

For a play with such serious subject matter the dialogue is laced with humour. I almost felt guilty for laughing at something while the last haunting battlefield story still resonated with me. It was also unnerving to have assault rifles aimed right at me in the audience, even though everyone knows they are props. Moscovitch and Rose will keep you on edge as they play with humour and fear. Humanity can be hilarious, but combat is always scary. 

This is War runs until February 3

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.