Mama Never Said It Would End Like This

From the fervent to the helpless to the flippant, several perspectives on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are presented with equal respect in Elena Hartwell's In Our Name. Each sentiment receives due attention in a production which consists of three plays, two monologues and a two-person scene. The components are united not only thematically, by the Middle East, but also in referencing people who are fundamentally altruistic and honorable, in spite the harrowing ends they suffer. In The Unraveling, Rebecca Nachison plays a social researcher delivering a lecture to college students about the importance of Shakespeare's words. Nachison proves herself to be a great orator by delivering a well-written speech, but the play shows very little promise of theatricality until the message shifts to her daughter's military involvement in Afghanistan. Hartwell manages this transition with finesse, linking the importance of Shakespeare's words to the importance of words exchanged between a mother and daughter, but the practicality of this swift subject change is questionable given the circumstances. Nachison conveys passion as well as restraint, and brings life to the struggle of wills between mother and daughter.

In What He Carried, a pregnant widow talks to her unborn child about his inheritance from his daddy, a former National Guardsman dispatched to die in Iraq. As the mother, Hartwell is focused, but rarely involves the audience as her gaze is lowered for the majority of the time to her swollen belly. Given its slow start, the ghastly surprise in this play is unexpected, but it is the sort that moves civilians and incites them to action. Terms such as N.O.K. (next of kin) have never seemed so bleak, and the acronym C.N.O. (Casualty Notification Officer) is information best left unknown. This monologue demonstrates how war's effects ripple across time and through lost relationships and the impact it can have on current and future generations.

The final contribution, Waiting for the Light, is less successful than the others. In a 15-minute time span between smoking her cigarettes, an everyday worker wearing a uniform similar to Target's discusses her casual opinions about Iraq. Her nonchalance swells slightly to pride after her son enlists. Concurrently, another woman rattles off names of twenty-somethings that have perished in the war before discussing the psychological impact on a soldier killing a child. The cigarette smoker's story is compelling in its simplicity, depicting an everyday staple of indifference that is very prevalent in today's society. However, her audience is undetermined, and her relationship with the other character is undefined. They appear independent of one another, despite the good drama that each woman creates.

In Our Name is a timely exploration of military sacrifice and courage. Although these qualities are not wholly understood by the civilians in these plays, they are not mocked or devalued. Sacrifice and courage are acknowledged as the soldiers' truths, even if the civilians consider the motives to be based on lies.

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