By Justine Slous
Interpersonal struggles, achievements and relationships set in modern-day Iraq were explored Tuesday and Wednesday night in Rance Robeson’s original play, A Damn Fool.
The show is a poignant tragicomedy comprised of six scenes that take the audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from laughing hysterically one second to being stunned by intense and serious dialogue the next. The acting is strategic, as each character is sitting in separate chairs facing the audience and stands when it is his or her turn to speak.
The cast of army men and women consists of Specialist Nelson (Robert Gray), Private Jones, (Andre Thomas) Captain Benn (Jillian Carucci), Captain Patel (Samantha Jaikaran), Colonel Price, (Tom Smallwood) and Specialist Price (Eric Baker). Immediately, the audience is transported to Iraq, where they witness the reality of war and how it sets in on the characters and enables them to deal with racial and cultural differences as well as life themes of self-identity, morality, acceptance, love and responsibility.
The Iraq War never allows them to “win, but only cope or love,” according to Nelson. Each of the characters are coping and losing because they use each other to deal with their own personal issues. While at war, the only ways to cope with this parallel universe are through music, sex, murder and love.
Each of the characters has his or her own trials, and their own unique ways to react to these struggles. For instance, Nelson’s mother dies while he is away at war, and Benn will not discharge him to allow him to go to her funeral. Benn, although seen as a tough woman on the exterior by her specialists, is really a gentle soul on the inside. Private Jones impregnates an army woman, although he already has a girlfriend. He phones in order to tell her the truth, only to find out she already had a child while he was away. He copes with this by injuring himself with a gun.
These interrelated relationships portray the detrimental effect war had upon them and how everyone needs love. It also showed that each person had his or her own reasons for going to war.
The play concludes in scene six, where Nelson is told he can go home and be with his family after he finishes one last mission. He does not survive. This leads his fellow comrades to wonder if war is really worth the costs.
The show was witty, unique and intense, and is a truly amazing piece created by Robeson. The weave of humor and passion was a nice touch, because it engaged the audience throughout. For instance, Nelson was cursing violently at Price one minute and the next they are rapping a song by Tupac. It was modern and realistic, a play that anyone could get into.
The acting was exceptional, with each of the character’s personalities pulling the audience into the story. Gray’s character is especially intriguing because he held the soldier crew together, always dishing out the best advice and knowing when to stand his ground, because he considered himself a fool, but not a damn fool. Each character connected very well, which added a considerable amount of excitement and energy to the show.
On the whole, Robeson’s original play was incredibly clever, and the cast made his play that much more wonderful.