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The Slaughterwright

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The Slaughterwright, Ironwood Theatre Project, at Grace Place Community Center. Though Hadwin Kingsley's three-character World War II drama seems immensely derivative, at least his sources are intellectually worthy. Throughout this immorality play--whose provocative irony is that wartime atrocities can humanize their perpetrators--there are hints of Nietzsche, Shaw, and Jean Renoir's La grande illusion, which spoke yearningly (if hypocritically) of a time when war was still a game played by gentlemen.

In Ian McCrudden's production, Kingsley also performs the role of icy field marshal Friedrich Weil, a suave military superman whose sophistication is surpassed only by his cruelty toward his victims and his seductive wife, Anna. Enlisting the unwitting aid of a British POW, Weil achieves a proficiency in the art of slaughter that ultimately enables him to feel empathy and passion.

Whatever one might think of Kingsley's twisted doctrine of self-knowledge through cruelty, his mannered drama offers precious little originality. The performances, though sporadically effective, reek of 40s screen melodrama, while the self-consciously sophisticated dialogue suggests a writer who's read all the right books and plays but hasn't managed to produce one of his own. "I cannot submit to anything, not even desire," Weil intones pompously at one point; and Anna chastises him for one of his moods by saying, "You're always like this after battle or love." Everything about this drama seems secondhand. --Adam Langer

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