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A CurtainUp Review
Warrior Class clocks in at 90 minutes, but itís really a 60-minute play that has been lengthened by Evan Cabnetís direction, which favors long pauses; and David Rascheís portrayal of political mastermind Nathan Berkshire, which comes complete with mumbled words, and dangling sentences. If this is realism, the play could do with a good dose of theatrical illusion.
Julius Weishan Lee (Louis Ozawa Changchien) is an up-and-coming state assemblyman looking to run for Congress. Aside from a perceived vulnerability in his Asian ethnicity, he believes heís in for smooth sailing, especially after he gave an apparently terrific speech in the wake of 9/11.
But Nathan, his handler, has found out that while in college, Julius had a messy breakup with his girlfriend, Holly (Katharine Powell), which resulted in some inexcusable and politically inconvenient stalking. In the opening scene, Nathan tries to get Holly to sign papers affirming that nothing unusual happened in their relationship. But Holly, whose husband needs a job, has other thoughts on the matter.
At first, Julius resists becoming the victim of extortion. Nathan and Holly spend lots of time bluffing and producing hidden trump cards until it finally becomes apparent who has the better hand. Although this may increase the suspense, it does leave one wondering why Nathan and Holly donít lay out their cards at the very beginning.
The central conflict is between Holly and Julius, and the best scene is the one they have together. But most of the scenes are between Nathan and Julius or Nathan and Holly. Which leads one to believe Lin is mostly interested in Nathanís political shenanigans.
Nathan is an aging, over-the-hill political hack who seems so weary and debilitated that itís a miracle he makes it to the end of the play. In fact, despite his wily mind and ruthless strategies, itís hard to imagine why the young and idealistic Julius has put his future in the hands of a corrupt has-been.
Lin clearly has studied the political scandals of our time and tried to model Warrior Class after them. Still his play does not always ring true. Even after the whole story has finally been revealed, one wonders whether showing up at an ex-girlfriends classes, hanging your backpack on a tree along a bridle path her horse takes and calling her parents to tell them youíreí going to kill yourself is really such awful behavior it would threaten an election. Surely politicians have lived through a lot worse.
Although thereís plenty of action in the back story, most of the action in the actual play takes place around various tables, in different homes and restaurants. And thereís lots of talk about what happened, what might happen and what shouldnít happen.
Thereís also a good deal of talk about interesting people who never appear onstage. Nathan has a daughter in a a halfway house. Hollyís husband is not only out of work; heís also a philandering cheat. Juliusís wife has a miscarriage.
If Lin had been as interested in his characters as human beings as he is concerned with them as political players, Warrior Class might have been much more intriguing, and even moving. As it is, itís politics as usual.
Editor's Note: In fairness to the play, it met with enough enthusiasm to extend for a week, from its originally scheduled August 10th e.s.
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