David Loehr’s script is lucid, and even elegant at times. Director Joel David Santer has put together a tight show, and actor/monologist Dan Crane clearly has the chops to pull it off. The setting is Iraq, which couldn’t be more exotic; and the subject is our adventure there, which couldn’t be more important. Why, then, does A Report of Gunfire lie so inertly before us, and leave us so inert afterward?
The problem, I propose, is that A Report of Gunfire is not a play at all. It is, instead, the worst of two worlds: a lecture by a fictional character. Loehr’s thesis, as voiced by his protagonist, appears to be that the media, driven by the desire to produce a satisfying storyline in Iraq, willfully ignored evidence that the war, and subsequent occupation were going badly. That might be true – certainly many people believe it to be true – but if it is I would like to hear it from a real person, with real credentials to say it.
Early on in the piece the nameless protagonist asserts that American soldiers, rather than Iraqi citizens, tore down the statue of Saddam Hussein in that scene which dominated American newscasts for days. Moreover, the protagonist says, only a few hundred Iraqis showed up to cheer on America’s victory; later, thousands came to the public squares to call for America to go home. The media, he says, covered it up. All this may be true, but it’s difficult for me to buy it from Loehr’s Man With No Name.
The protagonist, an American journalist assigned to Iraq for five years, has friends and collaborators among the Iraqi people – in particular Bassim and Hadad (I spell both names phonetically). Loehr draws these characters well, but misses a terrific opportunity to use them to introduce us to Iraq beyond the protection of the green zone.
The deficiencies in Loehr’s script should not blind us to the merits of the production. Crane does a first-rate job, combining a sense of passion with a touch of self-loathing. He delivers the monologue in the context of a video shoot, and he manages to show his character’s self-awareness and give him an ironic sense of humor. Loehr relieves the monologue with an occasional action scene – a blackout, say, or an attack – and the technical work is first-rate. (Stage manager Amy Carr did the lighting design, and Loehr himself did the sound design).
But the bottom line for A Report of Gunfire may be this: too much report and not enough firepower.
- Running Time: 50 minutes
- Tickets: A Report of Gunfire
- Remaining Shows: Sat, July 12 at 5 . Sun, July 13 at noon . Thurs, July 17 at 8:30 . Thurs July 24 at 9:30 . Sat, July 26 at 5:30.
- Where: Warehouse Next Door, 1021 7th Street NW