Los Angeles Times

July 8, 2005

 

THEATER BEAT

 

Antiwar play topical but unpersuasive

 

Most conscientious objectors stay home. Imagine, though, what havoc one might wreak on the front lines, particularly in the current, chaotic Iraq embroilment.

 

Nicholas Kazan has, in his impassioned, maddeningly simplistic new antiwar play, "A Good Soldier." With "Antigone" as an inspiration, Kazan gives us a willowy, quietly intense young Army private, Annie (Kaitlin Doubleday), who has turned on the U.S. occupation after witnessing a bloody scene of prison torture. As she tells a fellow female soldier (Ali Hillis), "It drove me a little crazy—in a nice way, I hope."

 

That quote crystallizes why "A Good Soldier" feels by turns bold, silly and pernicious. Putting the Iraq war debate into its very midst gives the arguments a bracing immediacy, but neither pro- nor antiwar positions are given persuasive voice. When the craven Gen. Creedon (Clancy Brown) invokes Saddam Hussein's mass murders, Annie replies, "Yeah, OK—but it was their mess." Later she says of insurgents she's been secretly supplying with food and medicine, "They're not insurgents, they're people!"

 

Brown has natural gravity, and Michael Anderson Brown, as his sneakily irreverent son, brings welcome nuance to his role. But under Scott Paulin's workmanlike direction, these characters have all the military bearing of the cast of "Scrubs."

 

Annie spends much of the show slouching and pacing, hands in pockets, with a righteous, needling pout that wouldn't survive basic training.

 

Audiences starved for topicality might still salute "A Good Soldier." Those looking for a stage tragedy worthy of the world's tragic state will have to keep looking.

 

Rob Kendt

 

"A Good Soldier," SK-Tribe at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 7. $25. (310) 477-2055 or www.odysseytheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.