Playwright: adapted by William Massolia, from the novel by Ryan Smithson.
At: Griffin Theatre Company at The Den, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets: $30-$50. Runs through: May 6
At the very outset, our narrator warns us, "I am G.I. Joe Schmo. They will not make movies about me. There will be no video games revolving around my involvement in the war. When people write nonfiction books about the Iraq war, I will not be in them."
He's probably right, too. SPC Schmo, you see, is a United States Army reservist ( a "weekend warrior" to his active-duty counterparts ). He is a soldier allowed to live as a civilian until his skills are needed, at which time he is ripped from his comfortable domestic surroundings and relocated wherever his unseen overlords deem appropriatein this case, a remote outpost in the African desert, where, for a year, his unit is charged with bulldozing the sandy soil into vehicle-friendly roads and filling craters left by bombs. More frequently, the targets of attacks than the initiators thereof, their peripatetic activities make for protracted intervals between crises to contemplate the global privilege they represent.
Indeed, the predominant emotion nowadays felt by youths spurred to fight for their country appears to be, not hatred of the enemy, but a suffusive sense of guilt. Joe enlists after viewing the wreckage of the World Trade Center, he marries his girl friend before shipping out to ensure her widow's benefits should he not survive, he is horrified at the poverty and squalor he finds overseas. Upon returning home, he is haunted by memories of the suffering he has witnessed, his sole respite lying in disclosure of his deeds and surrender to the nameless deities said to banish atheism in bunkers.
Ryan Smithson's memoir-turned-novel underwent considerable revision before its publication for the Young Adult market, and William Massolia's page-to-stage adaptation likewise reassembled to render the solo show a companion piece to Griffin Theatre's oft-revived Letters Home. Director Jason Gerace and actor Sam Krey succeed in diminishing the sentimentality inherent in a reminiscence launched by the speaker displaying his furry-toy lucky charm, but peacetime audiences content to wallow in the myth of daughters and sons emerging from battle's strife the better for the ordeal would do well to consider its consequences when the inevitable next crusade is declared.