In Our Name
nytheatre.com review by Natasha Yannacanedo
August 13, 2007
According to cnn.com, as of August 14, 2007 there have been 3,992 coalition deaths in the war in Iraq. 3,694 of these fatalities were Americans. According to iraqbodycount.org, between 69,334 and 75,775 civilians have been killed by military intervention in Iraq. Elena Hartwell's In Our Name is a timely compilation of three short plays that deal with women affected by their loved ones' involvement in the war in Iraq.
The first piece, The Unraveling, depicts a professor delivering a lecture that unfolds into a revelation that her daughter's life has been severely altered by the war. Her relationship with her daughter has been demolished because of the tragedy of what has occurred. Hartwell's writing in this initial piece is the strongest. Her words still resonate: "You need to understand about those that come back...but don't come back whole." She talks about those that are "ghosts" even though they are still "living." Rebecca Nachison plays the professor heartbreakingly well. She has an incredible stage presence and her recitation of Shakespeare is all at once griping, melancholy, and eloquent.
In What He Carried, Hartwell plays a pregnant widow talking to her unborn child. It is truly a haunting piece: the formality of the protocol in delivering the news that a soldier has been killed, the image of a pregnant woman laying out her dead husband's burnt uniform, and the sad reality that an unborn child will never know his or her father are agonizing. The estrangement that couples experience when one has been away at war and the disturbing fact that war completely alters even the most innocent of lives left me even more angry and frustrated at this endless war.
Waiting for the Light is a two-person play. The first character is a working class mom played by Nachison. She expresses some stereotypical Middle America ideas about the war. The naiveté of this woman thinking we can "win the war" is simply annoying but her vulnerability about the fact that her son will soon ship off to war is touching. Hartwell, appropriately typecast, brilliantly plays a playwright who movingly talks about a soldier breaking down in the audience during a play reading of hers. (What happens in the play reading is what actually happened to this soldier.) Although both characters were interesting, I was confused as to why they weren't in separate monologue pieces like the first two plays. There is no real intersection of the two characters. I would love for Hartwell to connect these characters or divide this piece into two separate plays.
In Our Name is an important and haunting play that should be experienced by all. The Independent Theatre is a charming but small venue so definitely buy your tickets in advance!