BWW Review: LITTLE WARS Earns Top Marks at University Of Nebraska Omaha Theatre
LITTLE WARS. We all fight them. They could be wars of words, wars over ideologies, or wars about favorite sports teams. A cast and crew of seventeen students from University of Nebraska Omaha put their heads together and through devised theatre developed a production so unique, so special, that it held me mesmerized for the entire 55 minutes.
One year ago, Steven Williams and Scott Glasser took a trip over the pond to Scotland to check out the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Williams said that within an hour, he knew this would be a great opportunity for their theatre department, so they hit the ground running.
Beginning with table talk, the students discussed conflicts in their lives and how to best present them on stage to tell their stories. What began as a thirty minute play turned into almost an hour of some truly creative work.
There isn't anything complicated about sets or costumes. The students are dressed in their version of apocalyptic grunge with painted faces. The set is nothing more than a prop or two like a sheet, a rope, and a hooded jacket. Sound includes some cool effects such as a howling wind, pounding bombs, or a soft rhythmic drum beat produced by an actual drum or by the actors beating their palms on their chests.
Some of the story is told through rhyme; some through song. In fact, the music is eerily beautiful when a sweet voiced soloist is joined by a harmonic chorus or when a singer strums his guitar. Other music includes catchy contemporary pop tracks.
The students use some of the most compelling movements I've seen. At times they are reminiscent of the Alvin Ailey dancers who are known for twisting their bodies into art forms. They are synchronized. They are lifted into the air. They intertwine in fluid movements that are surprisingly capable of expressing emotion. It's no wonder Williams had them take rock climbing and circuit training to build up their strength. Their physicality is integral to the play.
Voices of the past speak up with words of wisdom. A recitation of Rudyard Kipling's "Boots" was particularly moving as the insistent approach of war. Big wars made up from little wars. Parental demands leaving lasting effects on their children. Cruelty on the playground. Mirrors pointing out flaws. Love of money. Racism. Rape. Slavery. There is no social issue untouched.
If you didn't get the chance to see this production, I hope it will be presented again. It's an impressive piece of original work. I give them an A+.