nytheatre.com review by Montserrat Mendez
August 13, 2010
When I was in high school I was huge. I mean... HUGE. Funny thing is that I never really saw it. Even the jokes they made at my expense, I didn't get it, I didn't get that I was a big boy. On graduation day, I had two comments made to me that threw me into a tailspin. First one was, "Mozz, are you going walk or roll down the aisle?" The other one was "Mozz are you going wear a bra with your robe?" Watching War Zones, Laura Brienza's 50-minute meditation on the war we fight with our bodies, brought all those memories back.
The play equates the battle we often fight with our bodies with a life long war. We hate it when we are young, we use it for pleasure as we mature, we love to feel close to other bodies, and then it deteriorates and fails. Our bodies are war zones, battle fields, and sadly enough the battles never cease... until we end.
The play is divided into three sections, "My Father's Body," "My Husband's Body," and "My Son's Body." We follow a young woman, Joann, as she takes us through each body and tells us how they have affected her, changed her life, brought her joy, and made her suffer. Each body also affects and changes Joann's own view of her body. It's pretty raw stuff, full of angst, anxiety, and oftentimes a wickedly dark sense of humor.
The play rests on the central performance of Marjory Collado, and as Joann she does an impressive job. It's a truly lovely performance, grounded, truthful, simple, and affecting. I don't think the play would have worked quite the same without her. The three male performers all do credible, competent jobs; however, I felt one of the actors was miscast. Here is a chance to explore bodies, and because the actors are all in the same age range, (early 20s) I felt something was missing from the piece. The section where the father's body wastes away, well, it would have been great to have seen an older actor in that role. Especially since that older actor might have then played one of the children in a later section, which would have added to the humor and layers to the piece. Matthew McNear is a powerhouse as the young gay son of Joann, who develops anorexia after a particular traumatic encounter. While his performance is present and immediate, I found this section slightly unclear. Several reasons are bandied about to explain his anorexia, but the one that would have been clearest is Joann's obsession with her own body. Surely, children, who are first time learners, pick up a parent's obsession and adapt them to their own reality. It would have been interesting to have seen Joann come to grips with the fact that her child's behavior was born out of her own needs and insecurities.
This is the perfect FringeNYC offering. It's got power, intimacy, and the playwright has an understanding that our bodies are both amazing and frightening things. Yet it still needs work, it still needs to be thought about and expanded and workshopped, it needs an audience, and it needs a run, so that the playwright can feel it out and see where its true potential lies. But I have to say, War Zones announces the arrival of a promising new playwright: 22-year-old Laura Brienza has vision, talent, a unique point of view, and an exciting dynamic voice. She's also got a playwright's ability to make her audience think, without preaching at them. She's a real find. And ultimately isn't that what the Fringe does best, introduce us to those few unknown talents that we're bound to hear greater things from in the future?