View Full Version : Bringing home the wounds of war

01-27-09, 08:32 AM
Bringing home the wounds of war
by Peter Filichia/The Star-Ledger
Monday January 26, 2009, 10:00 PM

This will be the closest many of us will get to the Iraq war.

Playwrights Emily Ackerman and KJ Sanchez take us there through their fascinating but harrowing 90-minute play, "ReEntry." It's having a triumphant world premiere at Two River Theater Company in Red Bank.

The two teamed to interview U.S. Marines who endured their time in Iraq and made it home. The interviewers admit editing and shaping the Marines' thoughts, but insist that they've included only the Marines' own words.

Many disclosures are peppered with "y'know" because these men don't know how to express themselves very well. What's more, they're been discouraged from telling what they think, so they may have forgotten how to open up, if indeed they ever knew.

Five actors enrich the docu-drama, which has no no intermission. Joseph Harrell is the commanding officer, whom the actor splendidly plays as a man who's had his emotions severely stripped from him. He adopts a steely stare when he tells us that Marines must "accept the stress of combat as being normal" and "kill legitimate targets without hesitation." He advises parents of returning Marines to "put yourselves in their boots" and tells the veterans themselves "not to beat their wives and children."

Most of the play centers on John (PJ Sosko) and Charlie (Bobby Moreno), two brothers who worry their sister Liz (Sheila Tapia) and their Mom (Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris) by joining the force. Buttressing those, though, are many other characters. They allow each performer to show versatility with different accents and levels of articulation.

Sosko shows that the interviewers' attempts to delve into Marines' psyches and memories weren't always greeted warmly. "The only reason you're interviewing me is that I got wounded," he snidely says while alluding to his eye patch. But then Sosko shows this Marine is more sensitive than he would have guessed, as his face shows the agony and shame he felt when he saw his papers stamped "Unfit for Duty."

Moreno illustrates the opposite end of the spectrum. He's the young man who made it through, and will now challenge himself to another tour. "If I go, then someone else comes out," he says matter-of-factly -- while displaying the hope that he said it with the right amount of nonchalance.

Luqmaan-Harris plays the women back home who deal with the phone calls that offer too little information while simultaneously giving too much bad news. The actress then becomes a woman Marine, who evenly says: "I found myself in combat situations. I handled myself very well." Now she's insulted when at a bar and people offer to buy drinks only for the male Marines.

Tapia's best moments come when she reveals her fears of what her brothers "might see that will haunt them forever." She saves their phone messages, she tells us, so that she can hear their voices, should the day come that she's forever denied them.

Sanchez's direction is strong on detail. When three Marines are packing, she has them all pull drawstrings at exactly the same time with exactly the same force. That shows how well they've been trained to do their job as a unit. She's done just as well in making her excellent actors into an astonishing ensemble. The most credit of all, though, goes to the U.S. Marines.

Where: Two River Theater Company, 21 Bridge Ave., Red Bank. When: Through Feb. 15. Wednesdays at 1:30 and 8:30 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Saturdays at 3:30 and 8:30 p.m., Sundays at 3:30 p.m. Howmuch: $30 to $40. Call (732) 345-1400 or visit trtc.org