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When photojournalist Russell Price (Jack Noseworthy) is moved by the plight of revolutionaries in El Mirador, he compromises his journalistic ethics and takes a photograph depicting the recently deceased rebel leader as though he were still alive. The rebels have asked Price to take such a photograph to keep the revolutionary spirit burning for followers of the elusive "Rafael" and to help turn wavering American support from the current dictator. Price abruptly goes from abject refusal to impassioned agreement with no real discussion of the implications of his actions beyond a recitation of what is considered right and wrong in his profession. When mentor and moral voice Alex (James DePaiva) returns, the opportunity to explore the complications of this scenario is not only ignored but undermined: Alex is merely painted as a member of the old guard, too tied to tradition to see reason.
While Price and Jodi Stevens' Claire Strider—Price's friend, fellow journalist, and ex-lover of his mentor—spend more time addressing the moral questions surrounding their budding romance, the actors fail to generate the chemistry to compel the audience: a deficiency partly due to the lack of depth the story affords their relationship.
"Under Fire" raises important questions about the role of ethics in society and frames them in pertinent terms for audiences at a time when Americans are embroiled in conflicts around the world. Yet while songs like "When Americans Die" further the show's mission as a relevant discussion, the musical falls short of the deeper and more moving explorations toward which it strives.
Presented by John Bonanni as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 W. 46th St., NYC. Oct. 1–12. Remaining performance: Mon., Oct. 12, 5 p.m. (866) 811-4111 or www.nymf.org. Casting by Cindi Rush.
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