At Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway
Written by Gregory Burke
Directed by John Tiffany
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm
Thru April 10th
Running Time: Two hours with no intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Battle anthems, strobe lights, Scottish flags, the Highlands’ foreplay sets the mood to make war. Chicago Shakespeare Theater World’s Stage Production presents National Theatre of Scotland’s BLACK WATCH. A military squadron is coerced into sharing battle stories with a researcher. In present day, the war buddies drink to Sunday afternoon football at the local pub. In flashbacks, the soldiers deploy in support of American troops. The Black Watch unit camps out in the war zone nicknamed ‘triangle of death.’ Snippets of personal accounts and f#cking amazing surround-sound dramatize the brigade in enemy territory. BLACK WATCH explosively reverberates overhead, side to side and under the skin.
Much like the Iraq War itself, the overall intention of the military spectacle is unclear. On one hand, BLACK WATCH tries to “Hurt Locker” it with intimate looks at adrenaline-junkies. Heavy accents, echo-ey venue, limited story, the missile misses the target. Playwright Gregory Burke bases the show on a series of veterans’ interviews. Burke’s intention to keep-it-authentic might be the missing long fuse to igniting an explosive story. The dialogue is crude…literally and figuratively. 50% of the script is easily deciphered as one of three words: ‘f#ck, c#nt, aye. I’m not a prude but I do need some f#cking substance in ongoing expletive rants.
On the other hand, BLACK WATCH boasts ruggedly pretty pageantry. The arrival of the
first soldier into Iraq is a dramatic shocking stunner (the second one too!). When the squad fights, the movement is not edgy bar room brawl. It’s synchronized athleticism that captivates like a militia flashmob. Add in harmonized folk singing from cussing-men-in-fatigues, the contrast is amusingly entertaining! Jack Lowden does a colorful clothes-tease to illustrate the changing Black Watch uniform through the generations. The creative history lesson is a kilted pleasure. For the finale, Steven Hoggett choreographs an extensive marching drill that is impressive. The guys energetically race to set up the different stances. In several sequences, a fallen comrade is rescued back into formation. The symbolism of the unity of war among men is powerful.
BLACK WATCH f#cking sounds real! Sound designer Gareth Fry has made an audio-astic war zone. Helicopters, gunfire, explosions, it’s a combative earful! Along with the battle anthems, BLACK WATCH aggressively marches to the beat of its own bagpipes!
In the highly-coveted seat next to me, Tom describes it with slickly-staged spectacle.