Over the weekend, Friday to be exact, I went with a friend to watch an off-off broadway show “Oh What War” at The Here Arts Center. His friend was responsible for the video design of the performance. Despite the fact that I live in New York/Brooklyn, I haven’t attended many theater shows. Maybe I get to watch a show once or twice a year. The Broadway and off-broadway shows are expensive more often than not (expensive being anything more than free) and it just isn’t my source of interest or entertainment as much as art at the moment. I would love to make more efforts to find cheap but quality shows, but then, that would take effort.
But I must share with you the fabulous time I had watching “Oh What War”. It even got a NYT review. That’s how good it was (insert a bit of sarcasm and mockery. No, not all shows, whether theater or art gallery, that gets a reviews from NYT is good). It’s about a band of deserters abandoned in a trench hole in No Man’s Land during WWI. The members of this hapless group are from various enemy lines, forged and forced to entertain themselves in this underground home and we enter their lives sharing the revelry, the madness, the internal tension and external disconnection. Each character originates from a different country whether German, Czech, French and they stick faithful to their country’s stereotypes (German brute, French sass) but also share a common struggle for mental survival.
The tone is dreadful and resonates soundly today as the show emphasizes a war about wronged politics rather than a pride for and a defense of a country. The multi-media element disorients and distracts but quite successfully accentuates the disturbance of each character, as if the sound affects from the live sound maker is worn as a protective coating, or more like their subconscious mind with its grenade sounds and voice overs. The small tv screens as well as large pinned plastic covers displayed images of war and close up super dada-esque proliferation of facial close ups and spiraling abstractions. I was struck by the beauty of their synchronized voices when they sang old tunes and added crude verses, their minimal use of instruments were profound, especially when they all started stomping and whooping to sing a marching emphatic tune. The distinct charaters were emphasized, their uniqueness portrayed so successfully by each character, my fave being the boyish shy pathetic canadian who picked up a nervous tick and during the mock performance for the no-man-audience reads poems/letters to a distant careless mother. It was sad and bitterly saturday night live-ish.
The language used in this show was also so keen and smart, dry, witty and sarcastic, especially well played by the French character Kellie Rae Powell who plays the host during the ending mock performance. The narrative is well strung, each character gets his time to explain without having to explain, we get it. That’s great performance. There is no plot obviously, they are in no mans land doing what it takes to survive. The ending ends with another day ending in this twilight zone of a world. Nightmarish indeed, but even more frightening is how it reflects our world today.
I know that’s a vague ending sentence but I’ll just leave it at that and bring you over to some links.
a video clip here
NYT Review here
Here Arts Center: definitely check out more performances HERE!
Juggernaut Theatre Compant here