Unstrung Harpist’s production of Body Armor by Evan Crump, the company’s producer, is a play born out of the writer’s need to write a play “that approached war from the average soldier’s perspective.” He wanted to show a different side to the war story genre, one that doesn’t just depict heroism or despotism, but one that can show a more human side to war. He asks in his playwright’s note, “What sort of person goes to war?”
Body Armor tries to answer this question with four characters ranging in experience and personality. As Major Brian Forsythe (Bill Gordon) puts it, they are all “a different kind of strangers.” The Major, Staff Sergeant Seamus Hardy (Kevin O’Reilly) and Private Jeremy Appleseed (Nick Martin) all meet on board a cargo plane in Afghanistan bound for the U.S., with the bodies of soldiers as its cargo. Suddenly, the “insurgents” attack the plane and it crash lands in enemy territory. The three soldiers recover in the crashed plane, injured but alive, with only a small shortwave radio at their disposal to get help. This radio becomes the hub of the drama, as the only person Hardy can reach is Mina Sajadi (Devora Zack), a female American interpreter with family ties in Afghanistan, who has a secret that doesn’t allow her to send the trapped men help. As the plot develops, each soldier has his own revelation experience with Mina as they individually talk to her, trying to convince her to assist them. Each of the soldiers’ past lives and mistakes haunt them as they talk over the radio.
The best aspect of the production was the use of the radio as a conduit to vent about these mistakes. At times, Mina is just a voice on the radio, but as each characters’ demons are developed, she becomes physically involved with them in the space, as their injuries are forgotten, giving movement to the words that are being spoken.
However, the performances all seemed a little stilted, and could have probably used a little bit more rehearsal to tighten up their characters and their interactions. I think the script would benefit from some workshopping because you could see the actors struggling with the sense of their lines. I will say that O’Reilly’s SSGT Hardy gave the most convincing performance, as he struggles with being a hardass to PVT Appleseed, while still being the only semblance of a friend that Appleseed has in that moment.
Unstrung Harpist’s Body Armor is worth a see, but I’d be excited to see it in a couple years after the playwright has had time to work out the kinks and flesh out his ideas.
Running Time: 85 minutes with no intermission.
Body Armor plays through July 28, 2013 at Gearbox – 1021 7th Street NW 3rd Floor, in Washington, DC. For performance information and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe Page.
2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Body Armor’ by Evan Crump