Naked Angels has hit upon a political forum that actually generates some friction with its latest Issues Project, the two-week Armed and Naked in America. The well-chosen pieces all present substantially different takes on conflict, and the resulting two-and-a-half hour sessions (one per week) compose a discussion about the nature of war rather than a lecture.
Cindy Lou Johnson wrote the first piece on the Week B program: Propaganda, a monologue by a sexually adventurous young woman named Chloe (a wonderfully vulnerable Sarah Sweet) looking for meaning or God or...something. The play starts out honestly enough, but the longer it goes on, the more depressingly lazy Johnson's observations on organized religion and consumerism become.
The next segment, Ever Less Free, has the guts to tackle science fiction with a straight face and draws some interesting parallels between Pippin Parker's imagined world of the future and the problems of the real world. It's a little difficult to get your bearings during this segment, but it's worth the effort.
The Harvard Sailing Team offered A Toast, a nicely nonpartisan short video about a dinner party gone horribly wrong that was good for a laugh regardless of some sound problems.
David Rabe contributes The Earliest Uses of Spin, an excerpt from his play Gilgamesh, the Prince. The conceit is interesting enough: A peasant named Lanar (Thomas Jay Ryan) comes to the queen (Deborah Rush) to demand the return of his daughter, who has been taken by the prince. The queen's advisor Odo (Brennan Brown) embarks on a lengthy explanation of his dislike of Lanar, which is funny for as long as it takes us to get the joke that Odo is longwinded; once we realize that there are no other jokes forthcoming, however, it becomes depressing.
So far, Week B's batting average is not that great, but come back after intermission or you'll miss the astounding Bully Composition by Will Eno. During intermission, a photographer (the supremely confident Thomas Jay Ryan) and his assistant (Elizabeth Marvel, equally in charge) set up large foil umbrellas and a camera pointed at the audience. They want to re-create a picture taken during the Spanish-American War called "Bully Composition" by taking a similar photo of us. Ryan takes center stage and delivers a heartbreaking monologue about life as a soldier during combat. He finishes, pauses, studies us briefly, and says, "There." We have been bullied into looking right for purposes of the photograph.
For a breather, 60, Andy Blitz's cute video parody of the TV show 24, which premiered on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, makes light of the highly serious popular drama's love of cliffhangers.
Warren Leight's Amici, ascoltate tells the story of an Italian family whose men fight in three different wars: World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq. Like his earlier Side Man, Leight's short piece moves a mile a minute and takes its theatricality seriously, leaping back and forth in time with the able aid of actors Tony Campisi, Ilana Levine, and Derek Lucci.
The production's final moments belong to Nicole Burdette's After the Deer Hunter, to which director Jodie Markell has given a Pinterish pregnant energy. John (Logan Marshall-Green) and Natasha (Natalia Payne) are out on a date during a school break -- John is at military school, Natasha is at "a theatre school downtown." While the two kiss over a Bruce Springsteen tune, it strikes me that this is the perfect note on which to end the series: romance between two people who couldn't be politically charged in more opposite directions.
Presented by the New 42nd Street, Naked Angels, and Dan Klores
at the Duke on 42nd Street, 229 W. 42nd St., NYC.
April 18-22. Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 2 p.m.
(212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250 or www.telecharge.com.