CP Review: Goliath
Like most people of conscience, I was horror-struck by the photos that surfaced in our media in 2004 depicting the torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at Saddham Hussein’s former and infamous prison, Abu Ghraib. I could not make sense of the naked brutality, the willful humiliation and torture of ‘the other’ that the soldier-photographers captured as mementos of their tours of duty. I believe that these atrocities will haunt and corrupt our collective consciousness and memory as a nation.
An intimate snapshot of one soldier’s participation in the 2006 gang rape of an Iraqi woman and the murder of her husband and children just south of Bagdad is the subject of a brilliant one-act play called Goliath written by Takeo Rivera and directed by Alex Mallory. The event is real, but Rivera imagines the characters and the story.
Political drama is often stilted and didactic. Goliath, however, does not fall into the usual political theater traps. Playwright Rivera focuses his lens on a series of close-up shots of a fictional character named David, in his most intimate relationships with his parents, sister, best friend and high school sweetheart who becomes his wife just prior to his first tour of duty. Together, the ensemble cast acts as chorus and witness to the life of the boy, man and soldier, David who valiantly fights exoteric and esoteric demons. David’s devastating truth emerges on the landscape of his collapsing relationships.
Goliath offers no easy answers. Instead, the play raises questions about the nature of war, the deeply personal reasons that men choose to enlist, the misogynist and homophobic attitudes that characterize soldier-making and the 9/11 revenge motive that shrieks like the furies for death.
The brilliance of the play lies in Rivera and Mallory’s ability to fully humanize David. The usual family drama is so clearly part and parcel of our own cultural and social fabric. When David finally comes to the point about his role in the rape and murder of the Iraqi family, the play neither excuses nor fully explains his actions.
One of the motifs of the play is the sensitivity of David as a young boy. His mother recalls a scene from his childhood, troubled by the cruelty of his friends:
Some of the other boys grabbed some feral kittens
threw them into a bag
hit the bag with a hammer
and threw it into the swimming hole
Desperate for David to return home, she later calls to him:
I don’t care if you have to beat the bag with a hammer
just as long as you come back alive
The irony is that David does do something terrible, against his own nature and he makes it back alive, but his post-war reality is tragic. He cannot live with his Iraq-self once back at home. He is lost and therefore relegated, like so many other veterans I see living on our streets, to drift, unhinged from his true self; a living casualty of our war machine.
Presented by Poetic Theater Productions. May 23-June 3. The Wild Project – 195 E 3rd St, New York, NY 10009 (F to 2nd Ave) Tickets $18. Visit PoeticTheater.com for tickets and more information.