In The Heart Of America REMZI: I went to the refugee camp nearby but I couldn't speak the language.
I could point, though. CRAVER: We went on alert a couple of times. Lucky we didn't start without you. REMZI: A Palestinian farmer explained to me that there are three varieties of fig suitable for preserving - asmar, ashqar, abiyad. The black fig, the blonde and the white. Craver. I was a tourist there. An outsider. CRAVER: You're a Palestinian. REMZI: One old woman took me in for coffee because I didn't know anyone and About the Playwright Synopsis: Can love co-exist with a state of war? Remzi and Craver are soldiers serving in the Gulf. They worship each other's bodies when around them bodies are being destroyed. But after the end of the war, why does Remzi not return to Kentucky, and why have he and Craver been haunted by Boxler and Mae Ling, ghosts from another American battleground? Reviews: review by kevin johnson The play is set between two different eras: the first Gulf War of 1990 and the crux of Vietnam in 1969. A young Palestinian woman, Fairouz Saboura, is questioning an American soldier about the whereabouts of her brother, Remzi, who was in his first tour of duty. Craver Perry was with Remzi in the Gulf, but he is evasive with answers to Fairouz’s inquisition. Wallace also opens plotlines as memories of Craver and Remzi come to life. Craver, from Kentucky, is considered “white trash” while Remzi is an American of Palestine descent. These are only labels as the young men grow closer, fall in love, and have a secret affair. Within this structure lies their commanding officer, Lieutennant Boxler, trying to train the duo for combat. Using their differences against them, Boxler pushes his men to the limit, telling them to harness their anger for the enemy. Boxler has issues of his own as a spirit imbues his body while another ghost is there to haunt him. The spirit of William Calley, who massacred more than 500 civilians at My Lai in 1968, is using Boxler as an vessel while Lu Ming is trying to hunt Calley down. Seems that Calley murdered her infant daughter in Vietnam. Lu Ming finds somewhat of an ally in Fairouz as they both search for answers leading up to some bitter confrontations. Naomi Wallace was an established poet before she went into playwriting, and it shows throughout In the Heart of America. Like a boxer with quick feet, Wallace bobs and weaves through storylines trying to tie both wars together. Allegories aside, there is a lot of potent and powerful moments in this play that has to be recognized: Fairouz trying to connect with her brother through Craver; Craver’s guilt over Remzi’s fate; Calley and Boxler fighting over who reigns; while Lu Ming tries to find justice. Sadly, the quintet only shows specks of diverse range while the script is electric all the way through. As Craver, Todd Bruno shows intensity and emotion. Perry is a wall of contradictions, yet Bruno shows Perry’s guilt weighing heavy on his soldiers because he actually loved Remzi. Haylee Elkayam runs a gamut of emotions as Fairouz. From concerned sister to angry foreigner, Elkayam sticks to her agenda; we believe that she wants answers because there is a void in her heart. Craver is the only one now who will give Fairouz peace. The chemistry between Bruno and Elkayam is emotional and moves like
clockwork as they both try to put pieces together in a convoluted puzzle. A CurtainUp Review In the Heart Of America By Kathryn Osenlund
Why are we killing Arabs? For love. Say it's for love. Don't say it's for oil. Say it just once for me. We're here for love. --- interchange between Craver Perry and Remzi Saboura Perhaps Naomi Wallace believes that the magic of poetry conquers all. The Philadelphia premiere of her 1994 play, In the Heart of America is being presented by the InterAct Theatre Company at the Adrienne. Artistic director Seth Rozin finds the agenda of this poetic anti-war love play written in reaction to the Gulf War of 1991, and laced with intimations of Vietnam, pertinent to the current Iraq situation and suited to the liberal political philosophy and mission of InterAct. But can poetry conquer the play's problems? Early on, the ghost of a Vietnamese woman, hanging around in the aftermath of the last Iraq war, asks for Calley. Does she mean the Lt. Calley of 1968? She does. InterAct's audience knows from Calley. I wondered if the playwright could count on Calley being common knowledge elsewhere. In order to have a clue about parts of this play, that would be a prereq. (The morning after seeing the play I asked a few twenty-something college graduates, including a former marine, "Who was Lt. Calley?" They had no idea.) Primarily this is a love story about two soldiers --one, Remzi Saboura, an Arab-American who wants to be American without the hyphen, the other, Craver Perry, a White trash river boy. Ably played by Kevin Prowse (Remzi) and Davey White (Craver), the young men's smaller, more visceral moments are the best scenes in the play. Notably an episode where Remzi shares a bag of figs with Craver is full of little intimacies and theatrical promise. To pass the time Craver memorizes ways to kill and lists weapons in a mantra or lullaby. The soldiers' sensual weapon--love talk-- showcases Wallace's poetry:"Ever had a Phoenix missile at the tip of your tongue?". . ."A kiss is like the AV AB Harrier 2 straight up in the air. . .VTO straight up." Almost but not quite too weird to be comic, the two young soldiers rehearse how one will walk to approach the body if the other is killed. They find a walk with "a quiet sense of pride." A downside to even these great little moments is that although in a poetic work, verisimilitude is not of primary importance, it is disconcerting to watch a play about soldiers who are so non-regulation that it strains credulity. Some resemblance to the actual military would help. In another part of the story two women, one alive, one a ghost, search for answers and for two men, both dead. Lue Ming (Jennifer Kato) is the ghost of a Vietnamese woman killed by Lt. Calley, presumably at My Lai. She searches for him and haunts Boxler (Buck Schirner). The other woman, Fairouz Saboura (Soraya Broukhim), soldier Remzi's sister, tries to discover what happened to him. In
a companion scene to the young soldiers' walking practice the women demonstrate ways of walking in their cultures. Parts of the stories seem contrived and are difficult to follow: The significance of the gift of a ram's horn falters. It is for the dead soldier 's sister. She asks, "If you blow it, it will make a noise?" It seems the horn is meant to help her find her voice. However, this is a woman whose voice has been all-toofound throughout the play, rendering this theme incomprehensible. The sister-brother crucible, an intended major motif and underpinning, just doesn't come across. Boxler, a souldier, and Universal Soldier type is over the top with his sadomasochistic, twisted interrogation games, racial epithets, and philosophies, "Facts are not infallible. They are there to be interpreted in a way that is useful to you." A conundrum, Boxler is conflated with Lt. Calley. How this happens is not clear. An enigma for the sake of an enigma? Playwright Wallace, the '99 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, is interested in exploring in her work how different times will collide or resonate with each other. What's missing here is the logical connect. This is a poetry play looking for something solid. The set, overly-lighted to represent the burning sun of the desert by day, evokes nothing so much as "stage set," exposing the paint and seams of set pieces better left unnoticed. Nor are possibilities for the romantic light of evening exploited as they might be. It's just kind of fuzzy. A scene with lanterns begs for, but doesn't get, deep nuanced lighting. The very best lighting (and make up) is found in the initial scenes with the Vietnamese ghost as she half glimmers in the dim light. Insofar as the structure of this play allows, Rozin has done some wonderful work. The flexibility and fluidity with which he utilizes limited space to reflect shifts of time and space/living and dead is remarkable. The direction of the actors is admirable, and performances are marvelous, notably those of Prowse, Kato, and White. Unfortunately, rewarding little intimacies are too infrequent and fuzziness and sweeping statements too populous. Many mystery elements remain mysteries to the end. Underdeveloped or unresolved story lines about war horrors, expiation, love, and homophobia never tie together; consequently the play fails to reconcile its parts into a cohesive whole. It just doesn't seem completely thought out, despite the many fine directorial choices and a good cast and team of designers. It is as if at some level they trust, with the playwright, that poetic magic is going to take care of everything. Most of all In the Heart of America is disappointing because it lacks clarity, with nothing fully realized. The problem is not so much the murk of war or memory, but the murk of muddled writing. In the Heart of America Playwright, Naomi Wallace Directed by Seth Rozin Cast: Davey White, Soraya Broukhim, Jennifer Kato, Kevin Prowse, Buck Schirner Scenic Design: Dirk Durossette Lighting Design: Peter Jakubowski Costume Design: Karen Ann Ledger Sound Designer: Kevin Francis Running time just under 2 hours with one 15 min intermission
InterAct Theatre Company at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street 215.568.8077 Web: www.interacttheatre.org I 02/13/04 - 03/14/04; opening 02/18/04 Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 02/18 performance
IN THE HEART OF AMERICA
"IN THE HEART OF AMERICA is a pretty startling piece of writing. It has the driving political anger and entwining of the personal and political that marked some of the best British writing of the early seventies, the vigor and mystical overtones of raw Sam Shepard, and the grace and sensuality of a poet.... The landscape here is the barren, burned-out emptiness of history's war zones, and the talk is relentlessly of death and destruction. But there is also love." Lyn Gardner, The Guardian (London) RIVERSIDE, CAThe Department of Theatre at the University of California, Riverside, is pleased to present IN THE HEART OF AMERICA by Naomi Wallace. Angry about what had been done to Iraq in the Gulf War of 1991, playwright Naomi Wallace researched for two years before writing IN THE HEART OF AMERICA, exploring the interconnectedness of things: violence and politics, racism and war, class and desire. She was interested in the 'American way' of war, how language is used to inspire and underline aggression, how racism is used to dehumanize the 'enemy', how the language of war is made erotic and enticing. "War is, on one level, a simple question of how to best tear as many bodies apart in as little time as possible, and necessarily not about freedom and liberation," she wrote. The centerpiece of the story is the buddy relationship between two American soldiers: Appalacian-born Craver Perry and Palestinian-American Remzi Saboura, who understands the Israeli-Palestinian problem from a distance. The two men bond in a way characteristic of soldiers, but their emotional relationship seamlessly blends into intimacy and frank homoeroticism, without ever being explicitly sexual. This is true emotional bonding at the deepest levels, with great tenderness and affection growing throughout the play. Many immigrants from the Muslim world are conflicted by their desire to become assimilated Americans while retaining their cultural identity. These issues are heightened as the United States becomes increasingly anti-Muslim. While the play deals with Remzi's wish to 'become an American', it is also about the irony that becoming American means killing other Arabs-other people who are not white. Wallace writes, "We live today in a virulently racist culture, and Muslims are receiving much of the worst this. But this is not happening in a vacuum. There are many progressive anti-war and antiracist forces aligning themselves against these forces. I don't know what I would write if I wrote this play today."