Sideshow Theatre Company, in association with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, presents the Chicago premiere of 9 CIRCLES.
Playwright Bill Cain’s story is set in 2006 Iraq but it could as easily be 2013 Syria. The play’s underlying questions of ‘what is the USA doing? And why?’ are timely to today’s government debates. Cain plots a soldier’s persecution for horrific war crimes as the 9 circles of Dante’s “Inferno.” A troubled nineteen year old is recruited by the military. His stint is marred by extracurricular war activities. Now, he is the focal point for the rage of the nationS. He is *the* enemy, both foreign and domestic.
The show belongs to the sublime Andrew Goetten (Daniel). Always present on stage, Goetten spirals in and out of control of his myriad of emotions. He effectively garners both disgust and empathy simultaneously. As Daniel’s life story unravels, the audience gets glimpses of vulnerability behind Goetten’s hardened face. Under the tight direction of Marti Lyon, the ensemble (Andy Luther, Amanda Powell, Jude Roche) arrive to question the accused. Playing multiple roles, they force Goetten to confront his crime from military, psychological, political, civilian, and even religious angles. It’s like watching a frog being dissected and understanding exactly what the frog is feeling as he is pinned, sliced and probed.
Cain’s story is mind-broadening. If I heard about this play’s crime from the media, I would jump to judgment swiftly. Cain doesn’t make it that easy. He insists the guilty party for all war crimes is the government and he sets out to prove it. An analogy Cain makes, stated with profound nonchalance by Luther, is comparing the deaths of 9/11 to automobile fatalities. That comparison continues to resonate with me.
Not to interfere with the complexities of the story, Scenic Designer Courtney O’Neill keeps the stage stark. There is a metallic circle on the floor that designates Goetten’s prison. As different characters interact with him, they leave something symbolic along the cell’s parameter. Lyons also reconfigures DCASE Storefront Theatre into a semi-circle around the action. The audience’s viewpoint has both an intimate and ‘peanut gallery’ feel. We are, literally, in the position to judge the case. And for right or wrong, we do.
9 CIRCLES is not something we want to see. It’s something we must see. It’s an opportunity to build our understanding of military operations from one soldier’s disturbing life story.
Running Time: One hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission
At DCASE Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph
Written by Bill Cain
Directed by Marti Lyons
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru October 6th
Buy Tickets at www.sideshowtheare.org