Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Know Tribe breathes real life into 'American'


Theater review

By Joseph McDonough
Enquirer contributor

Know Theatre Tribe delivers one of its best with Marc Wolf's Another American: Asking and Telling, which takes on the issue of gays in the military.

Using a documentary style, frank and detailed interviews and an inspired and sharply edited collage of video and film imagery by designers Brian Risdon and Adam Rabinowitz, director Jason Bruffy delivers a compelling piece of theater. The recent announcement that he's joining the Tribe as an artistic associate is good news for the Know team.

Another American is drawn from interviews Wolf conducted with former and current armed forces personnel (from privates to generals). He shows an array of viewpoints on the gays in the military issue.

The Clinton administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy takes hits on all sides here as a compromise that didn't work, was ill-considered, and made no one happy.

The screen segments include some of the recreated interviews (featuring actors Sue Breving, Michael Burnham, Ghillian Porter and Jim Stump), along with Army training footage, news reports and photographs of soldiers.

It is Bruffy's strong cast on stage, however, that breathes theatrical life into these true stories.

Brian Anderson, Burgess Byrd, Elizabeth A. Harris, Daryl Hilton and Anthony Marquez each take on several characters, mixing a little humor, more poignancy, and a lot of pain.

The play avoids being preachy by sticking to the actual words of real people struggling with this issue, whether it is Byrd as the proud mother of a son brutally killed in a gay-bashing at a Navy base, or Anderson as a gay Marine whose devastated father (a former Marine) won't accept him and asks him to change his name.

Another American includes interviews with people sincerely opposed to gays in the military, such as a Hispanic recruit offended on religious grounds and a colonel concerned about the cohesion and battle readiness of his unit.

The preponderance of the interviews, however, involve gays and lesbians who have been ousted from the military, some of whom were subjected to violence and other cruelties during and after their discharge process.

Perhaps the most unexpected revelation from these former soldiers is the unanimous pride they still have in the U.S. military. They were honored to serve, served well before their unmasking, and wish they could serve again.

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Another American: Asking and Telling plays Thursdays-Saturdays through June 26. Know Theatre Tribe, 1425 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine. 300-5669.




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