Get your tickets now for Outside the Wire, an affecting story of what happens when a soldier returns home from his army service in Iraq 2.0. The show has a very limited run.
There are several standouts in this large cast from Massachusetts. Jimi Stanton who co-wrote and co-directed the play, commands the stage physically and emotionally as Sergeant Mark Mercer as he struggles to reengage in his life and reconnect with his wife and young daughter. He underplays the role with a smoldering, subtle intensity, which leaves you waiting for his return whenever he leaves the stage and rooting for him the entire time.
As Mercer’s side-kick Sergeant Mike Briggs, Tommy Karner bubbles over with charming ebullience, adding splashes of welcome humor throughout the show. His interchanges highlight the tight and almost hyperrealistic dialogue among the soldiers as they sit around awaiting their next mission, but he’s all business when they finally go out.
And the missions crackle with danger. Service weapons at the ready, the small unit coheres in tight formations, storming strange buildings in the night. These scenes are short, intense and shocking, creating a vivid portrait of the extremes these soldiers experience.
When they are not on mission, which is 90% of the time, the soldiers can do nothing but talk and bond with one another. Jordan McCormack shines in these interludes, embodying the role of Specialist Amy Green, a medic who signed up for the Army to help pay for nursing school. She muses with a wonderful combination of dispassion and heartbreak over her decision to enlist.
She expertly fends off unwanted advances from Private first class Josh Young, perfectly played by Co-Writer and Co-Director Dan Marcum. She leaves no doubt that she will endure and survive, while Young’s future upon his return stateside becomes increasingly tenuous.
Outside the Wire
by Jimi Stanton
at Fort Fringe – Redrum
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
The play is peppered throughout with video interviews of each of the soldiers commenting on what it’s like to leave, their guilt over making their families suffer, and their desire to protect their loved ones from the worst aspects of their war-time experience. The filmed segments contain some of the strongest work for the actors, especially Justin Nelson, as Sergeant First Class Jonathan Davis, who joined the Army right out of high school and made it a career. His interviews combined with the live acting create a clearly drawn individual who has seen the worst and has learned somehow to manage Army life for the long term.
Amanda Rae Troisi (Mercer’s wife Michelle) and Jessie Notaro (Michelle’s best friend Lauren), have touching scenes of commiseration and support, and while these scenes are excellent counterpoint in the structure of the play, they left the audience a little desperate for vocal volume during their interchanges.
When I learned that the play is 2 hours long with no intermission, I was rather nervous, but it really plays along, and time flew. There was a decent half house in the theatre and no one wanted to leave the theatre when it was over. On the contrary, the Venue Manager had to encourage everyone to exit so the next show could come in. We dried our tears and exited sniffling into the blazing sun, and still no one wanted to leave; we stood their talking and sweating until the the conversations finally petered out in the heat.
I recommend this play to everyone. I found it particularly compelling coming from a military family, and with a nephew presently serving in Afghanistan. But truly, this play is for everyone, because it tackles questions of violence, identity, comradery, friendship, love, fear and duty among others.
You may think you know these stories from Jarhead or The Hurt Locker, and indeed this play has a cinematic quality to it, but nothing can compare to seeing this story played on a small stage at the Fringe.