- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

The idea of a Hollywood actor writing a play about the war in Iraq could make even Alec Baldwin blanch, but Sean Huze is the real deal. “The Sand Storm” is based on his experiences as a Marine serving in the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in 2003 in Iraq.

In a fit of patriotism after the events of September 11, Mr. Huze enlisted in the Marines in 2001. He was hurt when his vehicle rolled into a ditch during a nighttime sandstorm south of the city of Nasiriyah, and Mr. Huze left the Marines in 2005 with an honorable discharge due to his injuries.

A similar sense of patriotism and duty — coupled with outrage over the war and confusion after his return to the United States — compelled Mr. Huze to write “The Sand Storm,” an affecting and difficult 70-minute play consisting of 10 short monologues in the voices of men who served in Iraq.

Notice the word “men.” There is no mention of the women soldiers and personnel fighting in Iraq, and “The Sand Storm” remains a rigorously manly treatise on the adage, “War is hell.” Mr. Huze’s earnestness and pride in the Marine Corps gleams through every moment of the play, yet the work fails to yield any new insights into warfare’s grotesqueries.

Mr. Huze seems to have been particularly affected by the civilian casualties; nearly every vignette describes either the gruesome deaths of Iraqi people or the unforgettable smell of burning flesh and burning tires. The depictions are shockingly visceral, especially Pfc. Kyle Weems (Joey Collett) talking of his discovery of a severed foot, and in the dazed logic of battle, deciding to sift through the piles of dead bodies to reunite the foot with its owner. On the flip side is Cpl. Tracy Waters (Kevin Robinson), who merrily eats his chow while an Iraqi man dies a slow and tortured death less than a few feet away from his armored tank.

However, since nearly every monologue depicts a civilian casualty, the impact is greatly diminished.

Couple this with the ending, where the actors gather onstage to deliver salient lines from a play you’ve just seen, and you begin to wonder if Mr. Huze was scrounging for material. That should hardly be the case.

The biggest mood killer in “The Sand Storm” is the device of the Marine narrator (Darius A. Suziedelis), who strolls in and out of the action and frames each vignette. The monologues can easily stand on their own and need no explanation. What really gets intrusive is when the Marine starts heckling the other soldiers, beseeching them to “Tell the story” or “Speak it” or “Find the truth” as if he were Oprah live from Baghdad. At this point, the play takes on the uneasy cast of a therapy session.

The 11-member cast also varies intensely in acting prowess, ranging from inspired to hammily histrionic to someone so disconnected from the dialogue they could be reading from a cell-phone manual. Brett Smock’s direction is adequate, but does not make use of Jen Price’s outstanding set, a tangle of canvas and wire, which is so visually arresting it almost detracts from the actors onstage.

“The Sand Storm” does not lack in forceful images of soldiers in combat. You just wish it were a better-constructed piece of theater, one that probed deeper into the paradox of how a man can be a proud soldier and also someone ashamed of what he has seen and done in the heat of battle.

**

WHAT: “The Sand Storm: Stories From the Front” by Sean Huze

WHERE: MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Sept. 25.

TICKETS: $25

PHONE: 800/494-8497

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide