Review: Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din

Writer-director Mark Sitko mixes war movies and veteran testimony.

  • Photograph: Jeremy Baron

    Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din

    Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din at Bushwick Starr

  • Photograph: Jeremy Baron

    Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din

    Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din at Bushwick Starr

  • Photograph: Jeremy Baron

    Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din

    Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din at Bushwick Starr

  • Photograph: Jeremy Baron

    Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din

    Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din at Bushwick Starr

Photograph: Jeremy Baron

Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din

Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din at Bushwick Starr

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

In Mark Sitko's labor-intensive experimental work Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din, the frame outshines the picture in a dozen ways. Despite being scrupulously designed and palpably intelligent, the piece drifts and falters and ultimately fails. Early on we adjust to Sitko's technique of juxtaposing high-drama war-movie moments with verbatim veteran interviews, and no matter how many times the episodic piece digs in, it can not take new ground. Sitko has so firmly committed to his methodology (superimposing pop-culture "physical scores" on docudrama-style monologues, per his company's manifesto) that when the piece most desperately wants to rip away from its armature, Sitko can't let it.

In tableau, Gunga Din seems almost perfect. The Bushwick Starr is dressed up like a VFW post (real beers at the real bar), complete with plaster eagle and claustrophobic paneling. Movement is what hurts it. Climbing over and through the set, the cast acts out movie scenarios (an awkward Mary Jane Gibson yells it up as George S. Patton), sometimes overlaying their mimed derring-do with real-world reminiscences about Vietnam or Iraq. Eliza Bent (a TONY contributor) does a lovely job delivering a general's tale; designated "crazy guy" Danny Bret Krueger's high, square body seems to have shouldered its way in straight from the '70s. Repeatedly we see how beautifully the team has made the box the show lives in—both literally, in Chris Morris's hyperreal veterans-hall set, and structurally, in the lavish care spent on interviews and conceptualizing. The actual experience, though, needs some of those much-maligned old-school techniques: transitions, propulsion, variation, pace. That basic training helps when theatrical boots hit the ground.

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Bushwick Starr. Conceived and directed by Mark Sitko. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 10mins. No intermission. See complete event information.