Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
Random header image... Refresh for more!


Source Pending

When it was decided that Yvonne Latty’s In Conflict: Iraq War Veterans Speak Out on Duty, Loss and the Fight to Stay Alive would be adapted into a play, the director should have paid particular attention to the format of the work that, while built upon socially responsible subject matter, is of a very unique nature and difficult to interpret in theater. Unfortunately, director Douglas C. Wager fails to do just that, not realizing that a play with narrative can have an audience but a play with interviews needs to have listeners.
Cultureproject’s In Conflict is a play consisting of a collection of interviews from Yvonne Latty’s book of the same name. The format consists of a series of Iraqi war veterans’ interviews, each supplemented by video footage of both the background of the veteran being portrayed on stage and Latty describing her experience with the interview. So, given what the play is portraying, the focus should be on trying to convince the audience that the actor is speaking directly to them, a task the production fails in accomplishing.
The entire work is dependent on the performances themselves because, given the format, there is no narrative to fall back on, something not understood by the producers, who take the performance like any other play and don’t try to change the audience’s role. They treat the audience as a passive personality, not realizing that an interview, unless conducted by someone, is not an interview. A narrative, on the other hand, can exist on its own without any input from the outside. Since this external input, or this presence of a listener, isn’t acknowledged, the interviews fail in being just that. The only anomaly here is Stan Demidoff’s performance that, by breaking the fourth wall through directly addressing the audience and handing out cookies, truly gives the feeling of a one-on-one interview. The rest of the performances, while equally well acted, serve as performances and not interviews.
Other problems also plague the production. Since the dialogue here is taken from common people and not expert playwrights, it lacks articulation and, while one can appreciate the pains of the experience, the writing isn’t strong enough to mirror that grief. Realizing this, the delivery is exaggerated to try and evoke the same empathy as a live interview and such exaggeration, while appropriate in theater, overly dramatizes the interviews, making them seem concocted and taking away any immersion.
As for technical issues, there are no memorable set pieces, no impressive aesthetic effects and no memorable sound design. Costumes are adequate but standard and, thus, forgettable. The theater itself is a faulty choice, allowing the rumble from the street above onto the stage.
Ultimately, In Conflict fails to realize that, when the audience is a part of the story, it needs to be directly acknowledged. The fourth wall should have been broken more often because a narrative is still a complete story, possible without an audience. An interview, however, needs a listener in order to be conducted.