Directed by Brad Akin
Produced by Live Wire Chicago
As part of Steppenwolf Theatre’s
Convoluted storyline with implausible characters equals a tedious drama
Bekah Brunstetter’s play, Oohrah!, is the story of a military family filled with dysfunctional and quirky folks who seem to be floating through life without a clue to why they do what they do. When Ron (Josh Odor) inexplicably returns from the Middle East early, Sara (Melissa Engle), his wound-too-tight wife, isn’t ready for his return despite an opening scene with her quirky – goofy – sister Abby (Calliope Porter) wherein she speaks of how lonely she is for Ron. Ha?
Ron is melancholy and hints of ending his 17 year enlistment despite being a few years away from being able to retire with a pension. We never know why he is so remote nor what may have happened to him in war? He loves Sara; works around the house; and spends time at the firing range at Fort Bragg.
Next, we see Abby, a flight attendant, as she flirts with a handsome African-American Marine, Chip (Ian R. Tranberg) by talking to the obvious scared-of-flying soldier about airplane crashes. Ha? Upon landing the scene moves to the luggage retrieval area where we see a security guard, Christopher (Joel Ewing) launch into a meandering monologue about his loser life. He confronts Chip over nothing until Abby, Christopher’s fiancee, rescues the bewildered Marine. Ha?
Despite being engaged, Abby invites Chip to have diner at Sara’s house where she lives. Ha? We see how Lacey (Madeline Long), a precocious 14 year old tomboy, wants to become a Marine and fight in the Middle East. Her father, Ron, tolerates, even encourages her while her mother Sara wishes for a more female daughter. Lacey love guns and wears Army fatigues.
Add Abby’s tryst with Chip and the rising tension between Ron and Sarah as Sara neurotically prepares for Lacey’s “coming out” birthday party and you witness a most unmotivated convoluted and improbable dark comedy or drama (the work can’t make up its mind). Once Ron, an Army Captain, uncovers Chip’s charade as a Marine, he still lets Chip into his family’s life including letting him attend his daughter’s party. Ha? We also see Pop Pop (Peter Esposito), the wheelchair bound senior, as he babbles incoherent Korean War stories at the dinner table.
The cast features weak to nonexistent Southern accents as they plod through Brunstetter’s script. With so many unfounded character changes and so many unexplained plot twists, Oohrah! plays like a sophomoric first draft. With loads of stupid dialogue (especially from Christopher and Abby’s monologues) and the lack of comprehensible storyline, playwright Bekah Brunstetter needs to rethink her rambling play. Nothing gets resolved and we never know why anyone does what they do. Brunstetter’s attempt to show how ‘white trash’ military family’s live is offensive and implausible. This group never considered getting outside help to cope with their trauma. They just drift through life much as thus play drifts through two hours plus of our time.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 25, 2012
For more info checkout the Oohrah! page at theatreinchicago.com