by John Stoehr
You may be shocked by the language, brief nudity and implied sex at the world premiere of Jeff Messer's "This War Is Live," which opened Thursday at the Footlight Players. But you won't be bored, and you'll come away wondering if you ever can trust our government's intel again.
This is by no means a flawless play, but it contains some fine acting and is a refreshing attempt to show how violence abroad is tearing our country apart. The drama relates an attempt by documentary filmmaker Grant Blake to present the Iraq war as fairly as possible by personally witnessing what is happening.
The multimedia element of the show is impressive and, for the most part, enhances the story and makes it more accessible for its intended Late Night audience. The video interviews shot by Witt Lacey are some of the most powerful in the production. There are no sets — just five canvases that are used as projection or shadow play screens. JC Conway and his crew create some great images with the white backgrounds, red lights, and shadows.
The Footlight Players have to be commended for putting on a compelling play that could easily have alienated the board members of a less tolerant theater company. Messer, meanwhile, successfully dramatizes events of recent history that many politicians would prefer us to forget.
Let me tell you I was BLOWN away!!! I went in not knowing what to expect from a community theatre, and left thinking I just left mid town Manhatten. The performances were not only believable, they left me wanting more and by the conclusion of the show I felt a connection with each and every character. The mix of comedy, drama and satire was perfect!
Unfortunately this time it's a mess. A world premier play, This War is Live by Jeff Douglas Messer, was the winner out of ten submissions for new plays to be produced as a part of the Latenight series. Directed, as all Latenight shows this season, by JC Conway, this show lacks the humor he found in Matt & Ben and the entertainment he produced with the enjoyable Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight. This play is long, it's sloppy, and it is delivered with all the subtleness of being hit upside the head with a sledgehammer. This isn't the actors' fault, nor the director's, save for choosing this play. Rather this production suffers from leaving nothing to the imagination and not allowing the audience to think at all. Every scene is up front, bold and spelled out in mind-numbing caricatures and not so shocking dialogue. The show gets a two instead of a one simply because the acting wasn't bad.