Sunday, January 6, 2013


In the current Tarragon production of This Is War, director Richard Rose has taken the delicate narrative strains of an explosive drama and rendered them with a heavy hand that intermittently discovers the strained admixture of tenderness and violence women and men at war frequently take part in. Unfortunately, the movement from past to present, so carefully sculpted into a script that interrogates the battle of the sexes within a contemporary model - international combat in Afghanistan - becomes a somewhat confused bombastic interplay of broad acting styles and a blurry sense of present and past.

Ari Cohen, Lisa Berry, Sergio Di Zio, and Ian Lake do their level best to interpret the playwright's complex vision, but they often come off as loud and intrusive in a drama - in a small space - that requires more vocal nuance than the ensemble seems to have been directed to deliver. The significance of a script that creates a highly sexualized domestic space for soldiers to inter-relate within is revealed as Moscovitch plays subtly with unspoken notions around the idea of 'don't ask/don't tell' and the oxymoronic concept of Canada's peacekeeping role in a war that claims 'innocent' lives on both sides of the ravaged coin.
Although proficient, powerful, and tantalizingly robust in their army fatigues, the entire cast lacks the smouldering passion of horny soldiers playing and fighting within the intense heat of an Afghan landscape. Yelling becomes a substitute for the kind of complex emotion expressed by individuals separated from home and any form of domestic security they might have known before becoming peacekeepers. And the slight homo-erotic narrative rises and falls within a single unfulfilled gasp that belies a history of material on the homo (and hetero) social erotics of military activity that could have infused the script with far more passion.

As it stands, This Is War is a powerful drama worth seeing for its seering examination of the ways in which we battle each other at home and at war. In its present incarnation, the production errs on the side of explosive combat when the tenderness of passion must surely rear its head when soldiers embrace temptation and lie down - or stand up - together in a blistering fit of sexual tension.

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