Streamers takes us into the barracks with four young soldiers fresh from basic training in Virginia as they anxiously await their orders while watching the conflict in Vietnam escalate.
Streamers premiered in 1976 as the third part of David Rabe’s Vietnam trilogy (which also includes The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and Sticks and Bones). David himself served with the army in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967, and out of that period came these powerful plays, each looking at different aspects of war and its aftermath, and each making use of an exceedingly dark sense of humor in depicting these events. What I find interesting is that you can’t pigeonhole David’s work as “anti-war plays.” In fact, he makes no attempt to take a position on war but instead chooses to show us what he actually saw – the relationships between the men, the atmosphere of fear – these moments are about the reality of what these young men faced rather than making an attempt to analyze the experience with the easy aid of hindsight.
Scott Ellis, our Associate Artistic Director, has been working with David on this revival of Streamers, as the timing seems right to be revisiting what is considered one of the essential American plays about war. They have an extremely talented cast and design team on this production, which is the play’s first New York revival, and the results are stunning. Personally, I feel that some of Scott’s best work has come in projects that allowed him to create strong ensembles (as you may recall from Twelve Angry Men, 1776, and Picnic), and Streamers fits well into this area.
The play’s title refers to the streaming white fabric that trails behind in the sky when a jumper’s parachute fails to open. The image is both beautiful and terrifying, and that dichotomy is exactly what makes David’s plays so fascinating. Yes, they can be violent and horrifying, but at the same time, they are bleakly funny and truly heartbreaking. We are watching a group of men in their own free-fall, and the play does not shy away from seeing how their heightened situation can lead to dangerously heightened emotions. So many playwrights today take a step back and comment ironically on the world around them. But David Rabe refuses the buffer of distance. He nakedly confronts these situations, and the sincerity of emotion is palpable.
It’s a captivating play, and I hope that it will raise many questions for you.
I look forward to seeing you at the theater!
2008-2009 Season, Streamers