A young man prepares to go off to war. He says goodbye and promises to write his mother. The man—still just a boy--packs up his dreams, his ideals, his naïveté, and in this case, his violin, and boards the train that will take him into the theatre of war, with its absurdities, its bloody comedy, and its way of pushing its participants to the extremes of their individual humanity. It’s a scene that has been acted out countless times around the world in the past century, and it is brought now to the stage in Tricklock’s new original work, Catgut Strung Violin, opening May 7 at the Auxiliary Dog Theatre.
Tricklock veteran Kevin R. Elder marches into the role of Anton, our everyday hero, playing the part of a 20th-century soldier in a nonspecific conflict in a nonspecific country against a nonspecific enemy. Under the experienced command of Director Elsa Menéndez, Elder and his comrades-in-arms Alex Knight and Charles Gamble bring a fresh and sometimes hilarious perspective to the dead-serious business that is warfare. Tight ensemble performance and physical comedy enacted without dialogue bring the audience intimately into the lives of these men on the battlefield. Warriors and witnesses travel together on a journey that artfully avoids the minefield of clichés that might be enlisted by Hollywood, instead offering a view that is at once realistic, touching, and just plain laugh-out-loud funny.
We have seen Anton’s smiling face and freshly-shaved head on the front page and on the evening news all of our lives. Rarely shown on those facades are the mundane realities that both brighten and darken the everyday life of the everyman soldier. This is where this squad of artists takes expert aim. They have collectively created a work that goes behind the lines to transcend the standard-issue rhetoric and tell a much more human story, occasionally through the voice of a soldier’s letters to his mother back home.
In times of war, artworks about war may raise controversial questions. Catgut Strung Violin is neither pro-war nor anti-war, and it makes no commentary specific to a current conflict in the world. Rather, it addresses the human elements that are at the center of the drama—not the lines on the map or the politics, but the eyeball-to-eyeball contact between individuals, each with his or her duffel bag of dreams, ideals, and naïveté. Elder and company offered an early rendition of the piece-in-progress for Tricklock’s Excavations series in 2008. At that time, a recent Iraq veteran in the audience spoke enthusiastically about the work, encouraging Elder and Tricklock to bring it forward. A more recent preview ignited spirited discussion among audience members, showing that the play has hit its mark.
The nitty and the gritty: The world premiere run of Catgut Strung Violin is May 7 - June 7 (Thursdays through Sundays) at the Auxiliary Dog Theatre, 3011 Monte Vista NE. There is a special preview performance May 6 and an opening gala on Friday, May 8. Tickets & reservations: (505) 254-7716. More information: www.tricklock.com .