In 1993, a photojournalist, Paul Watson, took a photo of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. The photo won a Pulitzer Prize! Years later, a young playwright, Dan O’Brien, while working through a play he was writing about ghosts and the haunting of war, came into contact with Watson. What came of this chance meeting? A new friendship that takes them to some of the most dangerous places on this planet, while at the same time, allowing each of them to dig down deep into their own lives, past, present and even future!
The play described is “The Body of an American”, and the writer, Dan O’Brien. This production is now on the stage of Theater Wit’s Stage One located at 1229 West Belmont as part of Stage Left’s 34th season. For 90 plus minutes (no intermission), we as an audience are kept spellbound as two actors portray a myriad of characters in what might be termed a “documentary drama” depicting their internet contacts, their travels and their adventures into the wilds, from Kabul to the Canadian Arctic, meeting all types of characters and leaning more about themselves and each other than they could have anticipated. The play opened in 2012 at the Portland Center Stage and is now in its Midwest Premiere.
As I mentioned, it is more of a documentary, but with solid acting by the two men bringing the story to life. Don Bender brings a rich and realistic feel to Watson and Ryan Hallahan is sheer perfection as playwright O’Brien. Directed smoothly by Jason A. Fleece, on a rather barren set, designed by Anthony Churchill, who also designed the projections, we watch these actors portray not only their characters, but others that they crossed paths with along their journey.
The stage is a large box containing a center square that is carpeted and in the box, what appears to be snow, or could it be sand? I guess that depends on where they are in their journey. In many cases, the projections behind these men take us further into the depths of where they are with a map indicating the exact locations. On the stage two straight back chairs which are used in several ways to be more than just chairs. The tech aspects of this production make for an easy to follow pattern. John Kohn III (lighting), Stephen Gawritt (sound) and Brenda Winstead (costumes) along with the fantastic projections bring all the parts to the whole. Truly a solid production that will make one want to learn more about the events that are depicted. Every Sunday, following the matinee, there will be a free discussion relative to a particular question arising from the production. This is free, and those who see a different performance might want to arrange a comeback for this special “symposium”. I am sure that a discussion will make some of what transpired for these men make more sense.
“The Body of an American” will continue at Stage Left through June 19th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets range from $20-$30 and are available at the Theater Wit box office, by calling 773-975-8150 or visit http://www,stagelefttheatre.com
There is street parking in the area, some metered, some not and of course Cooper’s across the street is a perfect place for dinner with free parking in the rear.
To see what others are saying, and I am pretty sure this show will be Jeff Recommended, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “”The Body of an American”