nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
September 11, 2009
If there's anything that stands out about Oohrah! at the Atlantic Theater Company's Stage II, it's the off-Broadway introduction of playwright Bekah Brunstetter, whose play is a fascinating, original take on something we've come to see rather often nowadays: the war play.
This "war play" is more about the war at home than it is overseas. Brunstetter's play, which, it seems, draws inspiration from close to home, is about a Fayetteville, North Carolina family, no longer separated by war, but separated by everything else. Ron has returned from his second tour of duty with the army; after the initial happiness wears off, his wife, Sara, would like him to settle down, but he feels trapped by the confines of domesticity. Their tween daughter Lacey would rather be a Marine than anything else (as opposed to Mother's wish for her to be a figure skater and Dad's wish that, if anything, she'd be in the Army as opposed to the Marines). Sara's sister Abby is engaged to Christopher, an airport security guard, but finds herself falling in lust with Chip, a mysterious Marine who begins to integrate himself into their lives. (The title, incidentally, is derived from the Marines' battle call of "oohrah," as opposed to the Army's greeting call of "hooah.")
Brunstetter tries to straddle two styles, the domestic comedy and the family drama, with mixed results. In intertwining the styles and trying to fit in all the characters, the play lacks cohesion and focus. Any point she may be trying to get across is unclear, but Oohrah! succeeds as a slice-of-life piece. The ending isn't much of anything and there's not much resolution. But, just as in life, not everything ends tied up with a ribbon.
Brunstetter knows her characters well and even the implausible one (Christopher, played with unstoppable innocence by Lucas Near-Verbrugghe), is written with some degree of believability. The most believable is Darren Goldstein's Ron, who has the sound and look of a military man down pat. In fact, the entire cast—the aforementioned Near-Verbrugghe, Goldstein, Jennifer Mudge (Sara), Cassie Beck (Abby), Sami Gayle (Lacey), Maximilian Osinski (Chip), and JR Horne (Pop Pop, who may or may not have dementia)—manages to make the characters seem sad, likable, and, most importantly, real. Credit that to director Evan Cabnet, who has staged the play with a sensitive hand, on an appealing two-tiered set by Lee Savage.
Bekah Brunstetter has an extensive biography for a playwright making her off-Broadway debut. Let's hope we hear her voice uptown again real soon.