Oh What War
Tue Sep 17 2002
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5
Joan Littlewood’s 1963 satirical WWI revue, Oh! What a Lovely War, was an ironic critique of the antiquated ideals of “duty, honor, country” that were still sending men to their doom in the early years of the Vietnam era. In revisiting this modern classic in Oh What War, Juggernaut Theatre Company has reduced more than just the title. One would expect such an homage to seek commonalities between the “War to End All Wars” and our military predicaments today; but this incarnation, shrinking from the challenge of current events, takes refuge in myopic mental doodling.
Juggernaut keeps the original piece’s historical setting (and some of its songs) for no apparent reason other than gas-mask chic. Meandering episodes supposedly feature “a band of deserters stuck in No Man’s Land,” but you would know that only from the press release. Catlett and Craig’s chief interest in WWI seems to be its Dadaist aesthetic legacy, but the production shares none of Dada’s abandon and spontaneity; the uneven ensemble’s slacker performance style puzzles more than provokes, especially during extended passages of foreign-language gibberish. Peter Ksander’s shelled-out design scheme provides some momentarily arresting images, such as a mock video game played with huge projections of old WWI footage. Also effective is the periodic release of poison gas—effectively played by dry ice—upon the audience. But to say this play ably simulates the fog of war is not, on the whole, a compliment.