In The Heart of America and Other Plays

heart of americaThis is a collection of plays by a “known-to-theatre-people” playwright, Naomi Wallace.  Scott Cummings is a big proponent of her – after reading this collection, I feel slightly better than ambivalent about her.  Some of the plays seemed forced, preachy… others were fascinating and engrossing.

The first play, “One Flea Spare,” is set in London during an outbreak of the plague.  This was perhaps the strongest play of the bunch, moving at a rapid pace and providing an interesting (albeit weird) examination of class relations.  It was like a fucked-up Sarah Ruhl play at times, to be honest.  I found myself darkly enjoying it.

The second play is the titular one, the one required for class. It was pretty straightforward, a look at American/Arab relationships in the wake of the First Gulf War. I didn’t love it – but I enjoyed it. I think that my problem is that I rarely truly love shows that deal with the lives of soldiers because I feel like, so rarely, do they ever seem “right.” The Hurt Locker felt right. This play, the scenes with Carver and Remzi and their budding romance… none of it really felt right. It didn’t feel real. It felt a bit ethereal, really. Then, so did a lot of the play – there’s a ghost and a roving soul, for goodness sakes. I actually really liked those interactions and the way that it tied the Gulf War to Vietnam without seeming heavy-handed. THAT was the best thing I took away from this play.

The third play, “War Boys,” was unnecessary.  It was about three young men out on the Mexican border doing the vigilante thing.  Yes, sure, its an important topic and its good that playwrights are addressing it… but I just felt like this play didn’t really say anything.  For a long time.  It just felt sort of “whatever” – I very much wanted it to be over.

The fourth play was actually maybe my favorite… yeah, now that I think about it, it might have been.  It was also the strongest: “Slaughter City”.  Set in a meat processing plant, mostly, it deals with labor relations and strikes and things that actually affect a lot of people.  There’s a weird subplot about this “Sausage Man” and his assistant (a baby he saved before the mother died) having some kind of power in these strike/labor situations.  They come in and basically fuck things up – set fires, collapse mines, things like that.  If I was reading a bit more closely, I’d probably have something more to say about it.  Remo Airaldi, guest professor here at BC last semester and A.R.T. company member (well, at least he was – who knows what Diane’s doing with the company now), was in the US premiere at the A.R.T. so that’s cool.  I’d like to look into this play further – I’d actually have rather read this than “In the Heart of America”.

The last play, “The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek” was boring.  I won’t lie, I skimmed most of it.  It just didn’t engross me at all – not enough to be repulsed from it, but I just didn’t really find it interesting.  I predicted the ending and it seemed, well, kind of useless to me.

I miss being able to read for pleasure… but next up, Homebody/Kabul by Tony Kushner – I’ll DEFINITELY have something to say about that.

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