Review of War

Dennis Foon, author of New Canadian Kid and Skin and Liars, gives us a violent jolt into the world of adolescence with his new play, War. Growing up to be a man is not easy in a society where brutality and aggression are a means of survival and dreams are held at knife-point. And Foon’s teens do have dreams. Their hopes are voiced in soliloquies that are often lyrical and powerful. There’s seventeen-year-old Andy who wants to be an actor because Eastwood and Seagal are tough and impenetrable. Brad will do whatever it takes: gouge your eyes, kick, spear, smash noses into jelly to become a hockey player; violence is his passport to a better life. Shane, who dreamed of a king whose touch turned everything to gold, watches everything he touches blow away. Foon suggests that dreams are the sacrifices of war, flickering flames of hope that are violently extinguished. In contrast to the dreamy soliloquies, the dialogue is sparse. The teens use slang; their words cut through the air like knives. The rhythm of the play is fast-paced, and the fragmented sentences convey a sense of urgency—there’s no room for discussion or emotion on a battlefield. Images of war are interspersed throughout the play to reinforce its theme of violence.

There are no parents or women in this play. Women are talked about, talked over, but they do not have a voice. Only Sheila, Tommy’s girlfriend, can inspire some unguarded feeling, but Sheila is a shadow, an ephemeral spark of humanity who is rubbed out by a violent rape. This is a powerful play that should not be overlooked. In War, Dennis Foon allows his characters to speak freely; there is no moralizing narrator to guide or censure them. Perhaps it is this lack of intervention that makes the play so effective. Foon wrote War as a warning, hoping that the profane language, the bloody images, and the disturbing climax would reinforce the power and importance of his message: the Hurt we put out comes back on us. It would be possible to study this play in a classroom setting if the mature subject matter and themes are taken into account. Having students take on the actor’s parts would be an excellent and provocative way to explore the role and glamorization and violence in our society, as well as its treatment of women. Recommended.

—Jennifer Sullivan, CM Magazine