If you moved the first act of Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul to an anonymous American suburb and set it to music the way banality fetishists Nature Theater of Oklahoma might, you could arrive at something like Victor Lodato and Polly Pen’s tightly packed little firecracker of a light opera, Arlington, at the Vineyard Theatre. But perhaps the word “light” is misleading.
When we first meet Sara Jane (a very convincing Alexandra Silber), a young army wife whose husband, Jerry (Ben Moss, the good-looking ghost accompanying Silber on piano from behind a scrim), is serving a tour of duty in an unspecified war, she’s about to have lunch with her mother. Sara Jane’s bashful indirection and cheery attitude lead us to believe in the flawless veneer of her marriage and life. As she becomes increasingly intoxicated over the course of a breathy monologue-cum-song cycle, however, she gradually reveals the ugly underside of her supposedly respectable traditional values: racism, denial, self-hatred, and despair over her brother Joe’s death and dismemberment in an earlier war.
We soon realize, if we’re paying close attention, that our heroine is carrying a child during her drinking binge. Dark enough for you yet? Then we find out that Jerry has sent a few pictures to her over his phone documenting a war atrocity involving children, in which he has played a major part — making her an accessory. This proves overwhelming for the young woman, who, through all of her twisted niceness, still conceives of herself as a compassionate person. That the creators of this bleak, subversive delight achieve their aims in a mere hour seems like an added insult to war, which always takes considerably longer.