Sojourn Theatre's The War Project: 9 Acts of Determination was my first exposure to one of the most beloved companies in town—though I was acquainted with their reputation for skillfully pairing challenging scripts with an unconventional use of space. Moments after the curtain rose it became obvious just how well deserved this reputation is.
The War Project is based on a year's worth of research, workshops, and interviews conducted on the topic of war. The resulting production is no simple series of vignettes, however, nor is it the monument to liberal guilt that I half expected. Rather, it's a nuanced, postmodern exploration of how human beings rationalize killing other human beings.
Sojourn focuses on the personal narratives with which individuals justify both their behavior, and the world around them. The show explores the ways that war is represented in political, personal, and religious arenas, and how these representations are invariably incomplete. This exploration takes the form of a disjointed, nonlinear spectacle that at times feels more like a conversation with the audience than anything else.
The cast cycles through several scenarios: two friends playing ping pong; a woman demonstrating the best way to kill a man; the owner of a battle-game emporium sending his son off to war; high-energy parodies of war movies; and slow-motion battle sequences. There's even a magisterial three-person chorus that presides over the action from the balcony above. Through it all, the ensemble makes it clear that they are struggling to find a way to tell the "war story" that neither trivializes nor polarizes the issues involved.
While War Project suffers from the occasional lack of clarity (heightened at times by an over reliance on movement and gymnastics), the ensemble brings a passion and intelligence to the production that renders the complex work quite accessible. In seeking to engage their audience intellectually rather than emotionally, Sojourn broadens the parameters of a conversation that, in a town where everyone tends to agree, can often feel frustratingly narrow.