Two American soldiers alternate sparring and bonding in their Fallujah barracks. An American father confronts an Army commander in a Berlin bierhaus. A middle-aged housewife in Mesilla, New Mexico, entertains a new-dad acquaintance. The three duets in Neveu’s new play are interrelated, and piecing together the hows and whys is part of its pleasure, so we won’t spoil the connections. That the puzzle reveals itself earlier than the playwright intends, and without quite reaching a satisfying solution, doesn’t take away from the bracing and unsettling enjoyment to be found in Brown’s remarkable production.
Old Glory is touted as the final installment in a trilogy that also includes Neveu’s Harmless and Weapon of Mass Impact (both premiered in 2007, at TimeLine and A Red Orchid, respectively). All three address the post–September 11 world, the Iraq War and their effects on American psyches. At face value, Old Glory would seem to be the one that most directly takes on the current conflict, via the on-duty Rat (Marcus Truschinski) and Goss (Steve Haggard). Yet their Iraq situation, though beset with the stress of patrols and riddled with current military jargon, is ultimately as much about class and upbringing among the armed forces as David Rabe’s Vietnam drama Streamers.
The more interesting exchanges occur between Tom McElroy and Philip Earl Johnson as the distraught dad and the officer and, most movingly, Penny Slusher and LaShawn Banks in the New Mexico scenes. Neveu’s characters don’t quite earn their emotional highs and lows, but this cast—especially Slusher, devastatingly cruel in her bereavement—is eminently watchable in its attempts.