Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Playwrights Emily Ackerman and KJ Sanchez, who also directs, interviewed service members both before and after their deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Both women have brothers who have served in the military, so they decided to focus on human drama and avoid political and tactical issues.
The performance begins with a C.O. (Larry Mitchell) addressing parents of Marines about to return from the war zone. He explains that the stresses of combat have nothing to do with the violence depicted in movies, television, and video games. Individuals have to learn that they are part of a team, not the loose cannons one might see as part of what he calls "the mythical American warrior culture."
The primary framework of the drama echoes the dynamics of author Ackerman's life: Liz (Jessi Blue Gormezano) works in the New York City arts community and her two brothers, John (Brandon Jones) and Charlie (Ben Rosenblatt), are both Marines with different ways of coping with the tensions of battle. John, who began as an enlisted man and, after college, returned as an officer, believes that the military is the only job he is able to do; however, he is frequently driven by storms of rage. Charlie, meanwhile, is emotionally numb. As one of the characters says: "I think we all come back with some post-traumatic stress disorder."
Jones also appears as Pete, a former Marine who desperately wanted to return to action even after losing an eye in an explosion. Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris is his wife Suzanne, who has built her own life around being a military wife and now has to learn new ways to cope with the world.
Under Sanchez's sensitive direction, the actors ably embody the contradictory feelings of people thrown into an environment they can't control, thrilled to be alive but guilty that their friends did not survive, and discovering in many cases that the military itself has become their home.
Ackerman and Sanchez have noted that one of their goals in creating ReEntry is to share the seldom-heard stories of real fighting men and women. To that end, the production has performed on U.S. military bases both domestic and abroad, and sponsors of the Round House production are subsidizing reduced-price tickets for members of the military. Talkbacks also follow most performances during the two-week run.
Round House Theatre