“Army strong. Direction weak.” That slogan could advertise In Conflict, a play adapted and directed by Douglas C. Wager from Yvonne Latty’s book, which re-creates interviews with members of the Marine Corps, U.S. Army, and National Guard—all veterans of Iraq. Not surprisingly, the soldiers’ actual testimony strikes the ear as more poignant and potent than most fictional treatments of the war (plays such as Embedded, Guardians, Sand, Palace of the End, etc.).
Wager doesn’t trust the script’s theatricality. He allows his cast—a game group of Temple University students—to present the monologues somewhat straightforwardly. Yet he fills the spaces between with embarrassing interstices: While the lights glow blue, green, and purple, the actors tote mess trays, perform quick-time marches, portray limping patients at Walter Reed, or content themselves with running and screaming. Bathetic music or video often plays.
Like many a Culture Project show, the production exudes an air of worthiness and complacency that leaves its audience unchallenged. The evening does include interviews with vets who support the war, but many of the speakers have choice words for the Bush administration, which they deliver while displaying the markers of post-traumatic stress disorder or terrible injuries. Small wonder that the military has discarded the motto “Be all you can be.”