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Gearbox

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 20, 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, 10 p.m. Friday, July 26, 10:15 p.m. Sunday, July 28, 2:45 p.m.

They say: “Shot down and stranded in Afghanistan, three soldiers face death on foreign soil; their only hope of rescue a mysterious woman on the radio. Surrounded by their fellow soldiers’ remains, they confront the price of American heroism.”

Sarah’s Take: Here’s the thing: I’m an “International Culture and Politics” major with a parental headache-inducing interest in the Middle East. And at least by the usual Capital Fringe metrics, I’m also not very much fun. Needless to say, Body Armor—a spare, thought-provoking show about three U.S. soldiers stranded in Afghanistan—was right up my alley.

The play opens as three wildly different soldiers—hard-boiled Major Brian Forsythe (Bill Gordon), cynical Staff Sergeant Seamus Hardy (Kevin O’Reilly) and green, 18-year-old Private Jeremy Appleseed (Nick Martin)—board a plane headed stateside. They’re shot down during take-off and spend several interminable hours stuck inside the damaged craft waiting either to be rescued or killed. Their only lifeline is a radio conversation with Mina Sajadi (Devora Zack), an American interpreter with a mysterious past who attempts to contact central command on their behalf.

Nearly all the action of the play takes place over that radio transmission. Zack wanders among the three soldiers, her figurative presence in the cabin represented by her physical presence on stage. It’s a good trick. Slowly, she manages to eke out each man’s story —why he joined the army, what he stands to lose—and in turn, she shares her own. Their discussion touches on all the usual questions that come up when talking about Afghanistan—mainly, what are we doing there?—but when framed by the intimacy and harsh reality of a plane half-buried in hostile territory, those questions become much more provocative.

Though the jargon-laden dialogue lags at first, all four actors give convincing and compelling performances—particularly O’Reilly, whose snarky Sgt. Hardy is the most complex and well-developed of the characters. Meanwhile, Forsythe and Hardy’s ribbing on gullible Appleseed also provides some much-needed levity to the show. The only real chink in Body Armor comes at the final five minutes of the show, which becomes a bit too much of a dissertation on the meaning of heroism.

Body Armor may not be your typical Fringe show: There’s no nudity, no comedy, no musical theater, and it’s only mildly experimental. It does, however, pack an intellectual and emotional kick.

See it if: You want to spend an hour and a half contemplating questions of heroism, sacrifice, and the ethics of war.

Skip it if: You go to Fringe for the burlesque.