Manhattan Theater Club is back in my good graces. We went to see Defiance last night. The new play by John Patrick Shanley who wrote Doubt.
Good acting. Great writing. Also, the bonus of being an hour and a half with no intermission.
It was interesting to see a second play written by Shanley. Both plays deal with power and authority and to make a choice between right and wrong. His story interweaves the characters slowly. Defiance, like Doubt has a dramatic ending that is in someway trying to teach the audience a lesson.
Defiance, like Doubt, are timely to what is happening in the world today. Defiance is set at the end of the Vietnam war on a Marine base. It is a story about race, war, leadership and defiance.
Stephen Lang, plays Ltn. Littlefield, the head of the Marine base. His entire life is about the military. He is interested in retiring as a General. There are race issues on the base. He takes to promoting Captain King, an African American, played by Chris Chalk to be his right hand man. King has no interest. He wants to fade into the woodwork and just do his job. But the truth is, he is capable of being a leader where Littlefield is not. Littlefield’s wife, played by Margaret Colin, is smarter and wiser than her husband. The Chaplain, played by Chris Bauer, seems to be deft but is actually more insightful than the whole lot of them.
Through out the play there is always the underlying theme that the Littlefield’s son has taken off for Canada to avoid the draft but that is just one defiance among many.
The words that Shanley uses to define the moment are wonderful. The Chaplain has a soliloquy after some of the acts pontificating about what just went on. I wish I could remember all of them. My favorite line was, "morality is like the ocean, it flows back and forth".
Definitely worth seeing and discussing.