KILL ZONE

Kill Zone’s power lingers  past curtain

Cast shines in tragic tale of soldier who comes home scarred

Dear Diary: It’s 6 a.m. I’ve gotten up because Wanda Graham’s play Kill Zone: A Love Story is giving me bad dreams.

Not even a purring cat can dispel the drama’s intensity. My dreams are of rape, loss, violence, spilled blood, family affected.

The play, at the Sir James Dunn Theatre through Sunday, is real and raw and current in its portrait of a Canadian soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Graham takes us convincingly where we, as Canadians, don’t ever want to go — into the dark place of a foreign war where soldiers see themselves as helpers but the populace doesn’t, where heat, exhaustion and frustration boil over into an inhumane act that leaves one soldier shattered.

The portrait of Ray Warden’s troubled mind is brilliant and disturbing in a stunning, energized performance by Dave Rossetti.

Ray is a dishonourably discharged soldier who is found on the street by an older woman, Katherine. She brings him to her country cabin to recuperate, though why she’s so interested in him is a mystery.

Katherine endures his tirades and sudden bursts of violence as she pokes and prods to find out why he crossed the line from sanity to madness.

As the play builds to the revelation of a true black spot in Canada’s military history, the dynamic between Ray and his fellow soldiers and himself and Katherine revs up.

The final, revelatory confrontation between Katherine and Ray is great theatre.

As an air force “brat,” Graham understands a soldier’s code of behaviour and she understands military language. This play rings true.

As a playwright, she bends the line between real and surreal. Ray’s experiences in a desert war and his nightmares are physically embodied by three terrifying, cawing crows played by Jeff Schwager, Kersti Tacreiter and Simon Henderson. Costumed in black masks with sharp, hooked noses and ragged black garb, they are malevolent, ever-present creatures. Katherine beats at them with sticks.

If this is a Greek tragedy, the crows are the chorus, along with the ghost of Ray’s best buddy Snoop. Henderson is also Snoop and matches Rossetti’s energy in realistic scenes of buddies at war teasing one another.

As an actor, Graham plays Katherine as subdued and enduring Ray’s machine-gun-like behaviour. Katherine is trying to take the charge out of Ray, to diffuse the situation through absolute calm. Sometimes Graham is too understated and speaks too softly to be clearly heard.

Alexis Milligan appears as a young, crippled woman who makes movies for YouTube on her iPhone. It takes awhile to figure out what this character is doing in the play.

Kill Zone, directed by Order of Canada playwright and author Kent Stetson, is sometimes confusing but well paced and well staged, with movement all over Garrett Barker’s spacious, semi-realistic set.

Stetson, originally from P.E.I., started his career working with Graham’s Stage East Theatre company in Halifax before moving to Montreal in 1990.

Kill Zone builds over two hours without an intermission to a poetic and tragic end that is rushed but theatrically effective.

The production design is strong with a rear screen of changing colours above a black silhouette of wreckage. Fire and heat and sound are created through image, sound and lighting design. There are no pictures of a specific place or people.

Graham was courageous to write this play. Her voice is powerful, provocative, dark and poetic.

The Sambro playwright founded Heat Theatre to produce Kill Zone: A Love Story. Her hope is that people will want to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In getting inside the mind of a war-tormented soldier, she questions who we are as soldiers, as Canadians, as people. That’s why it’s so deeply disturbing.

Kill Zone: A Love Story, presented under the patronage of Myra Freeman, plays the Dunn Friday through Sunday, 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $20 through the Dalhousie Arts Centre box office.

READ MORE

Kill Zone’s power lingers  past curtain

Cast shines in tragic tale of soldier who comes home scarred

Dear Diary: It’s 6 a.m. I’ve gotten up because Wanda Graham’s play Kill Zone: A Love Story is giving me bad dreams.

Not even a purring cat can dispel the drama’s intensity. My dreams are of rape, loss, violence, spilled blood, family affected.

The play, at the Sir James Dunn Theatre through Sunday, is real and raw and current in its portrait of a Canadian soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Graham takes us convincingly where we, as Canadians, don’t ever want to go — into the dark place of a foreign war where soldiers see themselves as helpers but the populace doesn’t, where heat, exhaustion and frustration boil over into an inhumane act that leaves one soldier shattered.

The portrait of Ray Warden’s troubled mind is brilliant and disturbing in a stunning, energized performance by Dave Rossetti.

Ray is a dishonourably discharged soldier who is found on the street by an older woman, Katherine. She brings him to her country cabin to recuperate, though why she’s so interested in him is a mystery.

Katherine endures his tirades and sudden bursts of violence as she pokes and prods to find out why he crossed the line from sanity to madness.

As the play builds to the revelation of a true black spot in Canada’s military history, the dynamic between Ray and his fellow soldiers and himself and Katherine revs up.

The final, revelatory confrontation between Katherine and Ray is great theatre.

As an air force “brat,” Graham understands a soldier’s code of behaviour and she understands military language. This play rings true.

As a playwright, she bends the line between real and surreal. Ray’s experiences in a desert war and his nightmares are physically embodied by three terrifying, cawing crows played by Jeff Schwager, Kersti Tacreiter and Simon Henderson. Costumed in black masks with sharp, hooked noses and ragged black garb, they are malevolent, ever-present creatures. Katherine beats at them with sticks.

If this is a Greek tragedy, the crows are the chorus, along with the ghost of Ray’s best buddy Snoop. Henderson is also Snoop and matches Rossetti’s energy in realistic scenes of buddies at war teasing one another.

As an actor, Graham plays Katherine as subdued and enduring Ray’s machine-gun-like behaviour. Katherine is trying to take the charge out of Ray, to diffuse the situation through absolute calm. Sometimes Graham is too understated and speaks too softly to be clearly heard.

Alexis Milligan appears as a young, crippled woman who makes movies for YouTube on her iPhone. It takes awhile to figure out what this character is doing in the play.

Kill Zone, directed by Order of Canada playwright and author Kent Stetson, is sometimes confusing but well paced and well staged, with movement all over Garrett Barker’s spacious, semi-realistic set.

Stetson, originally from P.E.I., started his career working with Graham’s Stage East Theatre company in Halifax before moving to Montreal in 1990.

Kill Zone builds over two hours without an intermission to a poetic and tragic end that is rushed but theatrically effective.

The production design is strong with a rear screen of changing colours above a black silhouette of wreckage. Fire and heat and sound are created through image, sound and lighting design. There are no pictures of a specific place or people.

Graham was courageous to write this play. Her voice is powerful, provocative, dark and poetic.

The Sambro playwright founded Heat Theatre to produce Kill Zone: A Love Story. Her hope is that people will want to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In getting inside the mind of a war-tormented soldier, she questions who we are as soldiers, as Canadians, as people. That’s why it’s so deeply disturbing.

Kill Zone: A Love Story, presented under the patronage of Myra Freeman, plays the Dunn Friday through Sunday, 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $20 through the Dalhousie Arts Centre box office.

READ MORE