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In the Heart of America at Theatre Seven of Chicago | Theater review

Naomi Wallace’s 1994 collage seeks to lay bare American atrocities.

 (Photograph: Amanda Clifford)
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Photograph: Amanda Clifford

Nick Vidal and George Zerante in In the Heart of America at Theatre Seven of Chicago

 (Photograph: Amanda Clifford)
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Photograph: Amanda Clifford

Kaori Aoshima and Nick Vidal in In the Heart of America at Theatre Seven of Chicago

 (Photograph: Amanda Clifford)
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Photograph: Amanda Clifford

Anthony DeNicola in In the Heart of America at Theatre Seven of Chicago

 (Photograph: Amanda Clifford)
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Photograph: Amanda Clifford

George Zerante in In the Heart of America at Theatre Seven of Chicago

 (Photograph: Amanda Clifford)
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Photograph: Amanda Clifford

Fawzia Mirza and Nick Vidal in In the Heart of America at Theatre Seven of Chicago

 (Photograph: Amanda Clifford)
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Photograph: Amanda Clifford

Fawzia Mirza in In the Heart of America at Theatre Seven of Chicago

We can only imagine what Naomi Wallace—playwright, peace activist and acerbic critic of the United States’ erratic involvement in Middle Eastern affairs—thinks of today’s hawkish discourse surrounding foreign policy. One presidential nominee contends an executive condemnation of this month’s Koran burning “shows weakness”; another’s manifesto is titled No Apology.

In Wallace’s biting 1994 drama, the MacArthur genius grantee unabashedly demands apologies for American wrongs ranging from the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam to racial tension to discrimination against gays in the military to the torture and rape—excuse me, “interrogations”—of U.S. detainees (palatable euphemisms for moral atrocities seem to rank particularly high on her list of grievances).

A Palestinian-American woman’s (Fawzia Mirza) search for her soldier brother (Anthony DiNicola) frames most of the time-jumping narrative, which spans from a Vietnamese victim’s (Kaori Aoshima) postmortem hunt for her killer through the brother’s relationship with an oppressed confidant in the first Gulf War (Nick Vidal). While Wallace’s brand of montage theater splices realistic scene work with cerebral poetry, the latter distracts and works against the author’s own agit-prop momentum. Yet Brian Golden’s grounded, on-point cast provocatively delivers the ’90s counterculture vitriol. There’s hot blood running through Theatre Seven’s production. Beneath its crimes, Wallace suggests, America has a heart—and it aches.

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