Beauty…Laughter…Love…War…The tale of those left behind.
The Poet Warriors follows the intertwined tale of three couples whose fates are bound to one another and the war in the Middle East.
Half of each couple dons fatigues and joins the army for one personal reason or another—Ray (Alan Naylor), a sweet Appalachian boy with a penchant for poetry, joins to continue a longstanding family tradition of service, Lewis (Jonathan Henson), a preacher, decides to enlist as a chaplain, and Eddie (Jase Parker), an orphan who, due to the instability of life in the foster care system, joins up for the chance to find the sense of camaraderie that was always so elusive. Each of the enlisted men’s’ respective spouses come from very different walks of life and have their own opinions about the war—Ray’s wife, Miriam (Rachel Brook) is an outspoken, anti-war activist, Jeanette (Jamie Ogden), a trust fund WASP, and David (Ben Levine) is a journalist who covers wars, not engages in them.
The narrative devices of this musical are a bit formulaic—as is often the case when presenting vignettes that will, voila, tie together and enhance one another in the end. Much of the plot is told to the audience through direct address by characters who then (sometimes) muddily transition into a scene that demonstrates the point they just declaimed to the audience. In spite of these sometimes unclear transitions, and in spite of dramatic content that sometimes verges on schmaltzy and over-sentimental, The Poet Warriors proves to have some moments that are intensely genuine and evoke honest emotional response.
What perhaps best creates these gemlike moments are the songs themselves. I’m not the biggest musical theatre fan—I had my love affair with musicals, only to find one morning, upon awaking, musical theatre had left me for someone with a wider range and tighter glutes—but this production was a sterling example of a new musical, well-produced, well-directed, and exceedingly well-cast that isn’t afraid to have a few false numbers in order to have musical moments that truly shine. “Git It”, masterfully performed by Parker, stood out like a fabulous, sultry sore thumb (you know…the good kind of sore thumb…). Parker’s entire performance was captivating—he exuded an energy/presence/what have you that demanded focus while serving, never hindering, the action of the play.
Speaking of the play’s action – it seemed to drag in the second act. Running at around two hours, the production is a bit too long for its own good and loses much of its emotional and narrative steam before the finale is sung by an all-around solid cast of voices. One particular number, “Miriam’s Dream”, was a nightmarish dream sequence that went on…and on…and on, not only for the confused Miriam who was befuddled by the dream’s meaning, but for the equally perplexed audience.
If the prospect of seeing a two hour long musical about the familiar subject of war in a space with questionable air circulation doesn’t frighten you, or bolder yet, if the prospect of seeing a longish musical about love, war, death, and other matters that can be trite but truthful excites you, The Poet Warriors definitely may be worth checking out. Good singing, nice vocal arrangements, and the lyricism to rhyme “Appalachia” with “apple atcha” (as in “I’m going to throw an apple atcha”)—there are far worse musical endeavors one can undertake.
The Poet Warriors
Produced by Jose Luis Diaz
Book, Lyrics and Music by George Purefoy Tilson
Directed by Patricia Woolsey
Musical Director Greg Watkins
Running time: 2 hours
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?