Ghosts of War narrates more than it represents | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Ghosts of War narrates more than it represents

This adaptation of an Iraq war memoir by a "GI Joe Schmoe" is strangely lifeless.


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In Griffin Theatre artistic director William Massolia's adaptation of Ryan Smithson's 2009 memoir, Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI, Ryan (Sam Krey), a high school student with little talent and no ambition, decides to join the U.S. Army after 9/11 when he's struck by an overwhelming sense of love for his fellow Americans as he stands with his junior-college-bound sweetheart in front of a fence strewn with memorabilia for those who fell with the World Trade Towers. As Ryan tells the story of his deployment to and return from Iraq, photographs of the scenes he describes are projected onto a paper screen behind him. The resulting image is not unlike those cardboard figures with an oval cutout for the face, only here, the motionless figures in the photos-GIs packed into their aircraft for deployment, hungry Iraqi children with their arms outstretched, soldiers facing the empty helmet of their dead friend-bear far more of the aura of life than the actor telling the story, though Krey is valiant in his portrayal of a "GI Joe Schmoe."

The problem is partly the form. There simply are too many words in this play, and Ryan is put into the position of narrating rather than representing his story. While that may be fine for a memoir, a play generally benefits from some action, if it is not also graced with some interaction. This play also contains baldly positive sentiments about weapons, warfare, and religion that are difficult to take seriously if you are not a young white male pro-military Christian American.   v

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