Monday, June 9, 2008

Review - Small Objects Fly Toward Heaven

I saw Deborah Clifton and Peggi Hong's Small Objects Fly to Heaven Friday night. This original collection of vignettes that flow naturally together brings the complex real world perspectives on the Iraq war to the City of Milwaukee with grace and beauty. The text was almost all derived from various blogs, presented in amusing and touching situations that center on and celebrate diversity and humanity's ability to persevere inspite of the messes we make of each other.

The content is fresh and relevant. These blog entries tell simple stories from common real-world voices struggling in extreme situations. The way Hong, Clifton and company bring these common voices together creates a historical record of the present day that approaches Barbara Krueger's ideal of history as a "crowd of voices". The show won't change your opinion much because it doesn't make a concise elegant statement on the war. It doesn't tell you what to think. Instead it trusts the audience with the competing perspectives of US soldiers, american consumers, and Iraqi civilians at the same time. We are to be informed by all equally, and are held responsible for the conclusions we draw.

At it's best, all these perspectives are portrayed sympathetically, as all valid inspite of the fact that they compete with each other. There are a few moments that fall short of this ideal. The couple shallow american girls are portrayed as cliche's of such, denying them this treatment. It's hard to sympathize with such people, but i wish the ensamble has risen to the challenge, and included a radical anti-american Iraqi perspective as well (anti-Bush bumpersticker slogans don't count, no matter how pleased the audience seemed to be with them).

At times the show slowed down or went on a tangent and it included a fair amount of new age pandering to a middle class female audience, but these flaws were tolerable distractions from the other themes in the show. Beautiful drawings and pleasant folk songs augmented the mood and setting of the play and made this celebration of womanhood (something I generally do not condone, prefering a post-gendered stance) immersive and enjoyable.

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