Playwright: Naomi Wallace. At: Theatre Seven of Chicago at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-494-7336; www.theatreseven.org; $15-$25. Runs through: April 1
There's no denying that Naomi Wallace's 1994 political dream play In the Heart of America is a damning condemnation of American military intervention across the globe. If Wallace's U.S. military characters in her play are meant to be representative of the country, then the play's title implies that the "Heart of America" is one mostly filled with an irrational hatred toward outsidersbe they foreigners or sexual minorities.
Wallace's play is so unrelentingly one-sided in only depicting the U.S. military atrocities that it can easy be written off as a leftist anti-war and anti-American harangue. But watching Theatre Seven of Chicago's production of In the Heart of America in light of the U.S. war in Iraq this past decade, you do have to give some ground to Wallace in questioning American military foreign incursionsespecially when the reasons for going to war in Iraq in 2003 were so bitterly contested and exposed to be so dubious.
In the Heart of America ostensibly focuses on a physically disabled Palestinian-American named Fairouz (Fawzia Mirza) who tries to find out what happened to her missing soldier brother, Remzi (Anthony DiNicola), by asking help from his military friend, Craver (Nick Vidal), who is a traumatized soldier prone to acronym-filled military speak about destructive weapons.
There's also the ghost Lue Ming (Kaori Aoshima), a victim of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, who is trying to find a missing personal item while pursuing the aggressive special agent Boxler (George Zerante) who may or may not be an American soldier spirit that continually emerges each time a new war zone pops up.
Director Brian Golden makes good use of set designer Lizzie Bracken's suggested bullet-and-bomb-pocked village stage space, having the actors skulk around amid Claire Chrzan's gloomy and spectral lighting design. The actors most definitely throw themselves into their roles by showing a nice physicality to define each of their characters, be they victims or aggressors or both for Wallace's alternating scenes of flashbacks, ghostly confrontations and modern-day reflections.
Theatre Seven says it is producing Wallace's play now to time with the upcoming presidential election season. As unashamedly one-sided with its damning depiction of the American military, In the Heart of America does stress the human costs of war that often get ignored amid so many wartime rallying cries for duty and patriotism. So I guess we should remember that as we head to the ballot boxes in the coming weeks and months.