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|September 4-10, 2008
The core of the Corps
Iraq through the eyes of a beholder
by Gary Zeidner
For all of you who participated in the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago in Denver, congratulations. You are far less politically apathetic than most. Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that whether you volunteered for or protested against the DNC, you were not part of the solution. Rather, you were part of the illusion of choice.
Though the professional politicians would have you believe that it’s the Republicans versus the Democrats and we all have to pick a side, the reality is that it’s the haves versus the have-nots, and your side has already been chosen for you. Frankly, the DNC, the RNC and the whole “two-party system” is a particularly bad joke. If you want to do something truly politically relevant in the next few days, go see The Eyes of Babylon at the New Denver Civic Theatre.
Presented by Theatre on Broadway and American Junction Productions, The Eyes of Babylon was written and is performed by Jeff Key, a former marine who spent time on active duty on the ground in Iraq. The 90-minute, one-man show delves deeply into his experiences with the Marine Corps, with the Iraqi people and with his own fears and longings.
The Eyes of Babylon is one of the simplest, most honest shows, and it will hit most people like a sucker punch to the gut. The show actually contains considerably more humor than it does recollections of bloody firefights or angsty rants against the futility of war. In the end, it is exactly what it is: one man standing on stage sharing excerpts from his journal written while he was on his tour of duty in a far away country. Its sincerity is its most potent strength.
Before the play begins, Key has chosen to have Middle Eastern music playing in the theater. This musical cue — so different from some martial tune — sets a tone of balance maintained for the remainder of the performance. The small stage is simply set with a few boxes that will act as tables, chairs, military vehicles, sand dunes and even a Starbucks before the play is over. Some desert camouflage skirts the stage. A piece of cloth strung across the back of the stage will obviously be used for pictures or video.
As the play opens, the cloth backdrop is the first part of the stage to come alive. It fills with a series of pictures of Key and his family. Baby pictures right out of Rockwell give way to middle school, then high school photos as Key grows up in fast-forward before our eyes. To be honest, when the baby pictures first came up, I was more concerned than hopeful. I had come for a play about the war in Iraq, not for some maudlin, sappy love-in.
Thankfully, Key eschews sentimental manipulation and instead opens himself completely to the audience. He deftly avoids the temptation to paint himself as more or less than he is. Neither super soldier nor reluctant hero, Key is simply a man who loves his country and his Corps but who cannot accept his government’s justifications for a war the costs of which he’s seen first hand.
As Key himself said after the performance, no one does “small theatre” to get rich. With The Eyes of Babylon, Key is touring the country not to become wealthy and famous, but to raise some awareness of what is really happening in Iraq. His play is meant to challenge its audiences and to illustrate that one can love one’s country dearly and because of that love dissent against its policies most loudly.
It is a testament to the genuine emotion underlying every moment of The Eyes of Babylon that though it spent 89 minutes questioning the war, at minute 90, when Taps was played, I felt a swell of patriotism pushing tears to my eyes.
On the Bill:
The Eyes of Babylon plays through Sunday, Sept. 7, at the New Denver Civic Theatre, 721 Santa Fe Dr., 303-309-3773, www.denvercivic.com.
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