Studs Terkel's "The Good War" | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Studs Terkel's "The Good War"


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STUDS TERKEL'S "THE GOOD WAR," Northlight Theatre. In this 95-minute treatment of Studs Terkel's seminal oral history, writer-director David H. Bell and composer Craig Carnelia (a contributor to the Terkel musical Working) complement the searing testimony of soldiers and civilians with powerful period songs. The ardent "Comin' In on a Wing and a Prayer" accompanies tales of pilots disappearing in flak storms, and in the purest moment a heartfelt American ballad, "Dear Mom," is sung with "Gute Nacht, Mutter." Baseball practice is performed to "Straighten Up and Fly Right."

The eight cast members have been perfectly picked. Seven men represent every branch of the armed forces while Jacquelyn Ritz plays Rosie the Riveter and others on the home front. The supple script weaves in the darker side of a "good" war: U.S. overreaction to Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese-American citizens, Hollywood propaganda, air raid drills, shortages, rationing, unequal treatment of minorities; acronyms like "snafu," we're reminded, originally chronicled soldiers' frustrations.

The theater had its own blackout on Friday due to a storm. The packed space was efficiently evacuated, but we missed the show's final half hour. Happily, we were whistling in the dark.

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