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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
A Good Soldier

Kaitlin Doubleday & Clancy Brown in A Good soldier
Kaitlin Doubleday & Clancy Brown (Photo: Patricia Williams)
Antigone in Iraq? She's been everywhere and the tragic complexities evoked by the US invasion of that war-torn country are fertile ground for the latest entry in the Iraq lists, the world premiere of A Good Soldier at The Odyssey Theatre.

Stage and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan has used the tortures and tragedies discovered by his young heroine, an enlisted woman called Annie, to explore not just humanity and morality but the existence of God. They're ranged against duty to family and country personified by General Creedon (Creon in the play by Sophocles), Annie's prospective father-in-law. Creedon's son Hammond, Annie's fiancé, serves in the same command. Kazan's sense of character and pace put life into the familiar arguments.

Victoria Profitt's evocative dusky set design uses a video screen set high in the corner to expand the play by displaying torture scenes, pictures of the Iraqui woman Annie tries to help, desert scenes and the American flag. When the play begins, Annie creeps back into the military billet she shares with another girl, Josey, and is persuaded to confide that she has been sneaking off base at night to bring food and medical supplies to a stricken Iraqui family. When the General confronts her, their long dialogue begins. Even when it's discovered that the woman's brother is a terrorist or militant, Annie clings to her newfound humanist values. Hammond becomes the focus in the last third of the play, batted like a ping pong ball between the father's values he has always espoused and loyalty to his fiancée.

The excellent cast, under the sure naturalistic direction of Scott Paulin, keeps the play from becoming preachy. Paulin's vigorous blocking and firm low-key direction serve the play's arguments and dramatic conflicts well.

Clancy Brown brings an initial warmth and joviality to Creedon that lend humanity to a character who embodies and uses implacable power. His man-to-man relationship with his son intensifies his dilemma but, echoing his calling and his culture, his authoritative call to duty never wavers. "To be human is to be compromised," he tries to convince Annie.

Kaitlin Doubleday brings a feisty vulnerability to Annie that is heartbreaking. It's a role which could be annoyingly virtuous but Doubleday's quirky mouth and childishly terrified eyes give Annie empathy.

Michael Anderson Brown's Hammond looks like a poster boy for fresh-faced clean-scrubbed apple-pie American soldiers. He stays in a character that has no range and makes it work by the sincerity of his decisions.

Strong support is given by Ali Hillis as Annie's friend Josey who makes an interestingly quirky character out of a girl without Annie's sensitivity or spine; Chris Gardner as Williams, Creedon's aide de camp, who subtly portrays a man wrestling with questions of his own; and Jameson Hawley as Anderson, a military man who projects a raw on-the-edge quality. When Anderson rushes in to inform the General that "the people we've been shooting at are not the enemy," we're left with Gardner's final line, echoing through the night, "Who is?"

Playwright: Nicholas Kazan
Director: Scott Paulin
Cast: Clancy Brown (General Creedon), Kaitlin Doubleday (Annie), Michael Anderson Brown (Hammond), Ali Hillis (Josey), Chris Gardner (Williams), Jameson Hawley (Anderson).
Set Design: Victoria Profitt
Lighting Design: Derrick McDaniel
Sound Design: Kevin Rittner
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Running Dates: June 24-August 7, 2005
Where: The Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, PH: (310) 477-2055.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on July 1

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