Friday, October 23, 2015

Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War @ The Actor’s Temple

I typically do not read reviews or director’s notes before I see a show of any kind. I want to have an unadulterated opinion of what I see and hear- my own experience. Ironically, I happened to see “Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War” with two people I have done civil disobedience activism with for several years. None of us had any idea what to expect. I was simply told that the play is offensive. Well it’s about fucking time! Thank you Charlie Fink and Lee Seymour for adapting the screenplay by J.T. Allen and his gutsy and creative approach to the human errors that were at the root of a now fourteen year long war that has displaced millions of people with hundreds of thousands dead. Humans. Who cares within what arbitrary lines these people were born, they are human beings. Or they were. I mention the director’s review because, in this case, the note inside the playbill from Mr. Fink is spot-on in his criticism of how “we” got into this mess, intimating that there is culpability and responsibility by all of us to heal the world from the destruction we have caused.
Of the dozens of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows I’ve seen, this was one of my favorites. From the moment I walked into the Actor’s Temple Theatre, I was greeted by the sweetest doorman and theatre manager. The actors served wine and donuts to audience members as though we were guests, freeing us all up from any stuffiness so we could relax into their fun and amusement. It worked for me…I twirled back from the loo…and I am shy with an audience. But the eight actors disrupted any pretense of formality, so our voyeurism into their “group” therapy was transformed into a shared experience.
With the self-indulgent mantra “We deserve better” that has become embedded in the American narrative, the cast, made up of Brennan Caldwell, Jason Collins, Bob D’Haene, Brandon Espinoza, Nehal Joshi, Olli Haaskivi, Claire Neumann, and Larisa Oleynik gives a sardonic portrayal of the events brought about by a succession of wrong decisions made, not by governments, but by people, which led to the invasion of Iraq and subsequent devastation to millions of people. People’s whose lives were destroyed- the collateral damage of hubris and conceit run amok. Thank-you for engaging me with your singing and dancing while you carried me along the journey of selfishness that gave rise to self-loathing- not the self-satisfaction and praise sought after by each player.
Directed by Marshall Pailet, who also did the music and with lyrics by A.D. Penedo, this play, really should be performed in schools as a warning against unchecked ambition and the role of personal accountability; and in churches where worshipers have sadly foregone grace to pledge allegiance to their new god, the State, which has instilled within us all a fear of our fellow man. Yes, humor is often the best way to impart a difficult lesson that requires we look at ourselves. I really wish there had been a Q & A afterward in order to hear if and how others were impacted. As for my friends and I, we were moved and reinvigorated to be more humble and gracious and will think twice before acting on that lie we’ve accepted as a truism: We deserve better…even if it’s at the expense of others.
You can catch this must-see show at The Actor’s Temple on W 47th through November 22nd.  Although perfectly acceptable for all ages, I suggest over sixteen. It is quite a heady show. Definitely get dinner or dessert afterward and discuss and chew on how you can repair the world. If a succession of decisions can bring about devastation, change can and does begin with just one and we can end the trend together, one thought and choice at-a-time.

Review By: Michele Seven
Photos By: Jeremy Daniels

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