Directed by Jennifer Markowitz
At Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Chicago
Mind numbing glimpse into a marine military prison in 1957 is 55 minutes of torture
Mary-Arrchie Theatre love to do “in-your-face’ raw theatre and their latest production turn their second floor space into a military prison circa 1957 in Camp Fuji, Japan. We see bunks, chasing fencing and three Marine guards as the Marine prisoners sleep awaiting another day in the brig. In the next 55 minutes we witness the dehumanizing and sheer tourer and the complete harassment of those Marines incarcerated for various violations of conduct. This show is raw and a realistic view of Marine imprisonment tactics in the 1950’s. I was bothered by the inaccurate uniforms of the guards and the warden. No one had a rank insignia and the uniforms were a mix of formal and fatigues. Costume designer Stefin Steberl had only to Google Marine uniforms of the 1950’s to see what they looked live.
Was a Marine brig as nasty and torturous as that depicted in Kenneth H. Brown’s play? Brown spent 30 days in the brig for going AWOL so maybe his memory was a tad tainted? However, as depicted in the Mary-Arrchie production, The Brig surly was hell on earth. The inmates here constantly screamed at (there was so much shouting, I’d advise bring ear plugs). This play features dedicated work from the entire cast. The guards: Jacob Alexander, Adam Soule and Mark Madison were the sadistic Marines who seemed to relish their nasty treatment of their fellow Marines while G. Riley Mills, as The Warden loved to wave around his M-1 rifle with his perpetual scowl faced contempt for his prisoners. The amazing thing about the physical violence inflicted by the three guards was that they were much smaller men that most of the inmates so why didn’t the larger and more numerous inmates fight back when punched and verbally harassed? 9 against 3 is good odds for the inmates.
The most impressive part of this production was the extremely accurate and total dedication of the actors playing the prisoners. Mike Newuquist, Connor McNamara, Aaron Norman, Alex Seeley, Nick Mikula, Eric Lindahl, Chris Briskhouse, Alex Levin, Ryan McDaniel and Joel Reitsma learned military marching and had the discipline to move and respond quickly to all the harassing in a most believable manner. They were Marines in all ways including buzz-cuts. You’ll never see a cast that works harder and move as quickly and in such precision as this cast does. They bravely endured much including a full frontal nude shower scene.
While The Brig is a glimpse into a day in the life of a soldier in prison, it is also a harsh indictment of military discipline that destroyed many in the post war period. The screaming and extreme cruelty makes you happy when your 55 minutes of torture are over. You leave quite impressed with the dedication and work ethic of the cast, especially the prisoners. Semper fi to all those Marines who served!
At Angel Island, 735 W Sheridan Rd Chicago, IL, call 773-871-0442, tickets $15 – $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 55 minutes without intermission, through May 26, 2013