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The Tally Ho

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

On War

This past weekend I was privileged enough to see two wonderful plays at the Mint Theater by J.M. Barrie. Barrie is mostly known for writing Peter Pan. Being and icon for that work does not encompass other great works by Barrie. I saw two great plays: Echoes of the War and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals. Echoes is about a middle class British family dealing with their only son, and only brother signing up for World War I as a second lieutenant. Broadly, the play was about the family. Narrowly, it was about the father, Mr. Torrance, and his son Roger, discussing their relationship – specifically about how to verbally express their love and appreciation of each other, knowing that Roger was going to go to war. This was a war that wiped out an entire generation of young British men, and over 8 million world wide.

The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, staring Frances Sternhagen, was about how working poor Scottish families dealt with the war. Mrs. Dowey (Sternhagen), who was never married, had no children, thus felt as if she was not part of the war effort. So the play is mainly about the relationship between her made up son, Private Dowey, who is an orphan, and how they need each other for comfort and connection during a dark time in history. It is a wonderful story, and if you aren’t in the New York City area, go to your local library and check out a book of plays by J.M. Barrie. It is worth the read. If you want to see it, the $45 is well worth it. The Mint Theater specializes in plays by famous writers that have really never been produced numerous times. Last winter I saw The Daughter In Law by D.H. Lawrence.

To quote from the Director's notes:
What J.M Barrie has done is brought the war home. Literally. He brings us into the home--the middle class and working poor home--and lets us meet some rather average people affected by the war. As in an ocean, Barrie takes us to the furthest, smalled wake that is left by the steamship War. Usually evoked by the enormous number of dead or wounded, windowed, childless, fatherless or brotherless, these plays take us down a simpler road. Barrie chooses to pain a more personal picture of war for us. How to achieve intimacy in the few moments one has with someone about to depart for the front and how two lost souls affected by the war ind love are the ways Barrie attacks the emotional cruelties of war. Little has changed in the nature of war or humankind in the ninety years since Barrie wrote these works. They ring as true today as when they were written. The strength of these plays is reflected in how his characters reach deep within themselves to be the opposite of war--human."
- Eleanor Reissa

If you are in New York, or visiting, and you don't want to pay $85 for a revival, check out the Mint Theater. If you are not interested, at least check out the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) as an alternative, especially the Next Wave Festival.

Update: If you didn't know this, Finding Neverland stars Johnny Depp and Kate Winslit is supposedly about what brought J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. I wonder if they discuss his plays about World War I.


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