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Theater Tue Sep 10 2013

Sideshow Theatre Shows Us Why War Is Hell in 9 Circles

Last week, on the History in Pictures Twitter page, there was a link to a photo of a soldier in battle fatigues with a scared smile on his face--handwritten on the front of his helmet is "War is hell." This could have been a soldier from Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, or any of the wars to which English-speaking troops have been sent. This image is titled "Soldier in Vietnam. 1965."

It could have been titled "Soldier in Iraq, 2012." The soldier could have been Private Daniel Reeves (Andrew Goetten), an unrepentant dead-end teenager who should never have gone to war and now stands accused of a horrific crime against Iraqi civilians.

Sideshow9Circles-GB.jpg

The cast of 9 Circles; photo by Jonathan L. Green.

Sideshow Theatre Company's new production 9 Circles, written by Bill Cain, uses the mechanism of the nine circles of hell in Dante's Inferno to lead us through Reeves' short life from accusation to trial and execution. In each circle, Reeves and a surreal series of professionals explore his reasoning, his memories and his options. Through his meetings with his prosecutor and shrink (Amanda Powell), his army and civilian lawyers (Andy Luther), a lieutenant and a pastor (Jude Roche), we learn that Reeves was a poor Texas teenager with a drug and criminal record when an Army recruiter decided he was fit to wear the uniform.

In Circle 1, Reeves is receiving an honorable discharge. He's then charged with a federal crime for the murder of an Iraqi family (parents and a child) and the rape and murder of their young teenaged daughter. The following circles show him in tense discussions with his lawyers, therapist, the pastor and prosecutor.

In Circle 7, Reeves is convicted at trial. In Circle 8, Reeves, now dressed in white and prepared for execution, speaks "the last words of Daniel Reeves." Circle 9 is Reeves' after-death soliloquy in which we finally learn what the young girl said in Arabic that caused Reeves to kill her--to save her from a worse fate.

Reeves' West Texas accent is sometimes mumbled and the actor sometimes speaks too fast, especially in early scenes. But his passion and his anguish over the crime and the later revenge killing of three comrades are clearly communicated. Reeves is center stage for all of the 100-minute play and the actor gives a remarkable performance.

Cain's script is gripping, sometimes poetic and definitely an antiwar sermon. The characters have great lines, such as "Operation Iraqi Freedom is both a euphemism and an oxymoron." The Army therapist says to her patient: "This isn't war. It's just violence. It's a mistake. We invaded the wrong country." One lawyer refers to "the other fuckup from Midland, Texas," a not-so-subtle reference to a former US president.

Director Marti Lyons uses the multiple casting effectively and each supporting actor skillfully becomes his or her new incarnation. The simple set by Courtney O'Neill in a reconfigured Storefront Theater space works perfectly and is enhanced by the lighting design of Mac Vaughey and sound design by Christopher LaPorte.

9 Circles (which was recently produced by the Washington DC area's Forum Theatre), received the American Theater Critics' Association/Steinberg Award. Playwright Cain, a Jesuit priest, received the same award for his earlier play, Equivocation.

This play is thought-provoking and troubling. It demands to be seen--and discussed.

9 Circles runs until October 6 at the Storefront Theater operated by DCASE (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), 66 E. Randolph St.; performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online. For more information, call 312-742-8497.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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