Monday, November 10, 2008

Bury the Dead


By Irwin Shaw. Dir. Joe Calarco. Transport Group at the Connelly Theatre. (CLOSED)

Irwin Shaw's 1936 anti-war classic gets a timely revival by the Transport Group, and critics, though mostly impressed by director Joe Calarco and his cast's resourcefulness and empathy, are less sold on Calarco's contemporary curtain-raising text.

Variety A-
(Marilyn Stasio) Hard to believe Irwin Shaw wrote Bury the Dead in 1936...The angry, searing pacifist drama feels as up-to-date and urgent as an incoming text message. To pump up the sense of immediacy of this enduring classic, helmer Joe Calarco has written a framework it doesn't really need. But after a fumbling start at stitching both pieces together, Calarco and his well-drilled ensemble...settle down to the harrowing task of guiding us through Shaw's hellish nightmare.

(Andy Propst) Although the initial few minutes of Shaw's play, which unfold as a cold reading performed by these men acting as untrained amateurs, are awkward, their woodenness gives way to passion as the piece gathers momentum and the power of Shaw's script overtakes them...Each member of the ensemble gives a fiercely committed performance that manages to almost fully mask some of the plays' creakier moments.

Curtain Up B
(Elyse Sommer) Calarco, not content with just streamlining his production, has once again donned his hat as a writer by adding a prologue to Shaw's script. Titled A Town Meeting, that add-on is an interesting device for bringing the two great wars between which Shaw set his play into the present. Unfortunately, the tone of the introductory material is off-putting and keeps us too long from the material that packs the strongest emotional wallop.

Time Out NY B
(Rob Weinert-Kendt) Joe Calarco’s excellent ensemble and designers masterfully blur and scramble the material; imagine the stark-staring WWI doughboys from the curtain call of Journey’s End wandering through Our Town. That may not make for an edge-of-your-seat bulletin from the front. But at its best, Bury the Dead emerges as a social-realist stage poem on the tests that every generation faces, in war or in peace.

NY Times C+
(Wilborn Hampton) Shaw wrote Bury the Dead in 1936, and it is obviously more informed by the circumstances, as well as by the language, of World War I than by the following conflict...But World War II was not like its predecessor, and Shaw fought in the war against Hitler. It is not like Iraq, either, and Mr. Calarco’s effort to link them is forced and unconvincing...The six actors in the roles of the ghost soldiers have mixed success. Jake Hart and Mandell Butler deliver credible performances, but some others tend toward the highly emotive.

Variety A- 12; TheaterMania B+ 11; Curtain Up B 10; Time Out B 10; NY Times C+ 8; TOTAL: 51 / 5 = 10.2 (B)

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