A brutal soldier is brutalized for his war crimes in this appropriately grim and morally complex two-hander.
Ramona Floyd and Jay Rohloff in The Monument. Photo: Anthony Collins
Reviewed by Patrick Lee
In an unnamed country following a brutal genocidal war, an unrepentant soldier (responsible for nearly two dozen rape-murders) is given a choice by a mysterious woman: either he agrees to do whatever she says for the rest of his life, or he faces execution for his warcrimes. Almost as soon as he agrees to her bargain, she chops off his ear. Thus begins Colleen Wagner's The Monument, a grim and bracing two-hander which has been given a spare, intense production by the Clockwork Theatre Company.
As the rapist-murderer becomes victim, the play (first presented in 1995) drives us to question when, and for what purpose, brutality is justified. When is the punishment no better than the crime? If that were all the play had on its mind, it would be derivative stuff, a less accomplished relation of plays like Death and the Maiden. Instead, Wagner's sobering play ups the ante at each turn with new moral complexities as the two characters continue to violently clash.
While the play is solidly structured and distinguished by its tough unsentimentality, the dialogue too often sounds authoral; the characters believably speak to each other a little less often than they make grand statements of the "war is no place for the innocent" variety. The result is a lack of nuance: the play's points are hit as if nails with a sledgehammer.
There's also an unfortunate predictability in the play's scheme which drains some of its power: it isn't hard to guess what Mejra, the mysterious woman, is ultimately after. It's a credit to the actress playing her (Ramona Floyd) that our attention is held despite this: she bites into her lines with a cold ferocity that reveals the character's suppressed rage, giving the play its primary tension. When she is called upon to express a moment of profound grief, the depth of her anguish is chilling even though we saw it coming in advance. As the soldier, Jay Rohloff impressively finds the traumatized wounded soul of his war-damaged character.
The grave, high-stakes clash between these two characters is a grim reminder that the hell of war continues on when war ends.
Clurman Theatre (410 W 42nd Street)
Tickets (212-279-4200): $25.00
Performances: Tue - Sat at 8pm; Sat at 2pm; plus Jan 21 at 2 pm & 7pm, Jan 28 at 2pm
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