Monday, February 6, 2017

Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue—Profile Theatre—SW Portland

Generational Defenders

This drama about the emotional effects of War on people is written by Quiara Alegría Hudes and directed by Alice
Reagan.  It is playing at Artist’s Rep.’s space, SW Alder St. & 16th Ave., through February 19th.  For more information, go to their site at www.profiletheatre.org or call 503-242-0080.

War is a double-edged sword.  On one hand, it is an excuse to quell conflict, on the other, an instrument of aggression.  It is said that the history of a war is written by the victors and so the actual Truth is rarely known.  Why does one group of people spend so much time and energy in squashing another, when all that’s left as a result are broken bodies and cities in rubble?  Is it worth all that effort to gain a plot of dirt and rocks and steel?  But, when the word patriotism is used, by friend or foe, then the conflict somehow gains a certain worth.  One Truth of it is simply that one group of people cannot tolerate another and so they fight to force their way of life onto the masses.

But another, more sinister reason, may be that some people just like to fight and kill, just for the pure enjoyment of it.  It seems that some may just have an insatiable appetite for destruction.  A line from the biker movie with Brando, “The Wild One,” the sheriff asks, What are you fighting against?  The reply from the biker, Whadda got?  Could it be that simple in some cases?  The bottom line seems to be, in a conflict, there are winners and, if winners, than losers, too, who will someday then rise up, and it starts all over again.  Tolerance, folks, is the key…now we just have to find the door that it fits….

This story is about four people and three generations of a family that feel a strong sense of duty to defend and protect our American ideals.  Perhaps, stronger, because the Ortiz family comes from a Latino heritage and are familiar with the struggles of minorities.  It is a memory play as it skips back and forth in time, reflecting sometimes on Grandpop (Anthony Green), a veteran of the Korean conflict, in which he would play the flute as a solace to sooth the savage beast.  His son, Pop (Jimmy Garcia), became a veteran of the Viet Nam War, fighting in the jungles.  Becoming wounded, he met Ginny (Cristi Miles), a military nurse, fell in love and eventually married.  The result being their son, Elliot (Anthony Lam), who choose to fight and, he too, was wounded, in the early 2000 conflicts in Iraq.

I don’t want to tell you the whole story because some of it is expressed in monologues by the characters and is beautifully told, by the actors, as written by Hudes. In their poetic presentations, akin to Tennessee Williams’ style of writing, my descriptions would pale by comparison.  The play is also done on an essentially bare stage, focusing on the author’s words, the actors/director’s vision and the audiences’ imagination to enliven the story which is, perhaps, the purest form of theatre.  What is also of interest is that you might expect these three generation of military people to have major differences in the ways they dealt with such things as death of comrades, the hardships of the environment, killing of another human being, the dreams they had that sustained them, et. al.  But just the opposite is true, they find a sense of comradeship between the generations as to war experiences.

They all dreamed of home, women, food…all found a certain solace in music…they carried trinkets of home in their packs…they abhorred having to kill another…thoughts of plants/flowers…memories of childhood/youth, etc.…all common elements of being “a stranger in a strange land.”  And they, like all our current, brave veterans of war, need understanding, acceptance and a place to call home in these uncertain times.  We are all a brotherhood…a sisterhood…a peoplehood, under the same sun and moon and stars, as are all living things, and it is necessary to share this space in Peace, in the limited time we have on this grand, green earth.
Reagan has done well in her use of a basically bare space and has the actors be inclusive with the audience, making them part of the process of creating and exploring as well.  Hudes has a powerful story to tell, gleaned, in part, from personal observations and conversations, as well as a unique, poetic style of expression.  The actors are all very believable and pull from within the necessary emotions to tell their tales, not relying on the trappings of elaborate sets and props.  Well done to all.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.