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In light of the aggressive intelligence with which PTP pursues its theatrical ends, it’s especially perplexing that anyone should observe, as Carl Sumter does in the press release announcing the founding of Spectrum Theater Company, that we poor, deprived Washingtonians “need to know that there’s more out there than Thorton [sic] Wilder and Neil Simon.” Really?

To help fill this wholly imaginary vacuum, Spectrum offers a production of Streamers, David Rabe’s 1976 reflection on Vietnam (and more generally on the warlike nature of us all), which has been described as one of the decade’s best dramas. The play, set in a Virginia army barracks in 1965, is marked by an intense compassion for human failings, even though its views on one or two issues (especially homosexuality) now seem decidedly quaint.

It’s also riddled with subtle ironies of the sort that emerge clearly only in the hands of a sensitive director (a black soldier joins whites in suggesting that the queer would have no problem if he’d just learn his place, for instance). Sumter is anything but sensitive, though, and the kindest way to characterize the result would be to say that this new company has overreached itself—especially as two of the actors involved (Scott Fortier and David Lamont Wilson) show a degree of promise. But the arrogance behind Sumter’s ridiculous comment makes me feel less charitable than I might be otherwise; Spectrum’s Streamers, to put it plainly, is the most militantly awful evening of theater to hit Washington since TheatreConspiracy’s Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium.CP