Behind the headlines and beyond the soundbites, gays in the military have had a hell of time getting any respect.
Marc Wolf’s compelling new play, ANOTHER AMERICAN: ASKING AND TELLING (now through next Sunday, Feb 6 at KC Rep on the UMKC campus), sheds the harsh flood light of reality on the predicaments of these patriots. Armchair generals be forewarned: this is not a story that’s going to make you proud to be an American.
Carefully culled from years of research and interviews with the people who had to deal with that callous Clinton compromise called "don’t ask, don’t tell," ANOTHER AMERICAN introduces us to a whole range of characters on both sides of the gays in the military debate. Give playwright/performer Marc Wolf alot of credit– he works hard to get all sides to the table. I’m sure there were audience members who choked down a silent "attaboy" for some of the virulent homophobia Wolf dredges up in his polemic. Not me– and I hope not most of us. What the military did to these poor folks was purely and simply criminal.
Plays like ANOTHER AMERICAN (Anna Deveare Smith’s oeuvre comes to mind) work best when there’s a strong hand at the helm. Joe Mantello turns in another sensitive directoral effort here, shaping the material and keeping it moving. At one point, I thought I caught Wolf falling into the cadence of Mantello’s portrayal of Louis Ironson in ANGELS IN AMERICA (yes, Joe acted ten years before those WICKED millions started rolling in). Working on the sparest of stages, with a few props and no projections, Mantello and Wolf breath life into an interesting busload of odd balls, commentators and tragic heroes. The two hours go by quickly; this is theater at its most elemental.
Nice- albeit simple– lighting and sound compliment the work. Some may fault Rep artistic director Eric Rosen for mounting a one man show in big Spencer Theatre (it would have looked great downtown at the Copaken Stage, too). But I think it works just fine. ANOTHER AMERICAN is theater worth watching— the kind of compelling exploration of a subject that you’re not going to find anywhere else. Now that "dont ask, don’t tell" is mercifully behind us, it’s important to understand the history of the men and women who served us so well– and were so ill served by us in the process.