Theater Review: Shock and Awe

The final installment of the world premier plays that the festival showcased is, ‘Shock & Awe: Soldiers’ Voices from Iraq.’

The once heated topic of the Iraq War and the homespun barrage of American soldiers who inhabit the desert country, has lost a certain amount of fondness as of late, with both politicians and the American public alike. But playwright Damon DiMarco has resurrected the hot topic of war and given voice to the variety of faces and personalities, which enforce American policy on foreign shores.

DiMarco was originally trained as an actor, but decided to change his view of the stage when he began writing short plays. He authored a series of nonfiction books, one of which he ultimately adapted into ‘Shock & Awe,’knowing that the stage would be the best medium to express the drama he encountered while interviewing American soldiers who served in Iraq.

The play opens up with U.S. Army soldiers methodically patrolling down the Corbett theater steps toward the stage, in ultra-stealth mode, transporting the wares of war: M-16, grenades, flak jacket, and full desert fatigues.’ As the young men make their way up to, and across the barricaded set, they encounter and eventually engage the enemy with a bombardment of weapons fire.

Although unabated gunfire and bomb blasts are woven into ‘Shock’, it is not without authentic right. The play seeks to express an accurate account of the desert war: young American men killing an oppressive ruling class who are in the throws disenfranchising its people, and the dysfunctional U.S. government that is attempting to occupy a volatile country.

DiMarco does an excellent job of tapping into the spirit of the unpopular war and the individuality of each soldier. Every scene opens up to a new set of circumstances, and unfolds, only to abruptly stop again, as one of the young men step out of the embattled scene to deliver his story.

The audience is directly addressed by the soldiers with detailed and emotional stories of home, of death and destruction; stories of pain and weariness and of camaraderie in war. Specialist Jesse Simon (Nathan Tubbs) enjoyed the life of a country twanged Texan in a land far removed from his current station, taken aback by the strata of people and personalities that converge during war. Staff Sergeant Peter Puglisi (Timothy Rhoades) is a plain clothes intelligence soldier who is a fast talking and furious war machine, fully committed to the U.S. effort to such a degree that he’s beginning to grow numb to atrocity.’ ‘

Whatever the background of each soldier, whatever their story may be, ‘Shock’ brings to surface the pressure cooker that is the country of Iraq, and the tumult that is the desert war, forever transforming for the worst, the Iraqi people and the American soldier alike.