The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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New play depicts troops’ struggle

As chaos continues at home and overseas, six soldiers struggle to not only physically survive in the war in Iraq but also scrounge to find peace of mind with their surroundings.

“The Dogs of Baghdad,” an original play written by Gary Jacobelly and directed by Sean Fenton, tells the story of these men while presenting the dichotomy in their outlook on life in the war.

Padilla, played by Carlos Arellano, depicts a wounded soldier whose main goal in the war is not to kill everything and everyone in sight, but rather to show compassion for the innocent and weak, refusing to shoot at anything that is not a direct threat. Yet, the visions and voices haunt him still.

On the other hand, Padilla’s fellow troop member Nubs, played by Chris Bouffard, has desensitized himself from all the killings so much that guilt does not run through his veins. He uses innocent people as targets to aim at when frustration gets the best of him, many times shooting just for the sake of watching them die.

There is no doubt that Nubs gives the audience plenty of reasons to hate him, but in the end you feel sorry for him. You see a man who came into the Army with good intentions but got lost in the chaos and hid behind his gun.

Although the main dichotomy lies between Padilla and Nubs, the rest of the cast also present other disturbing and moving facts resulting from the war.

Along with the five American soldiers comes a one-legged Middle Eastern man who is nicknamed Crutch, played by Alex Khastoo. He does not hate the American soldiers for he admits that he did not think things in Baghdad could get any worse before the U.S. Troops arrived. Still, he does not like what is going on around him now and sees what he fretted over most — a land torn apart and the innocent left as mere casualties.

The plot continues to follow the characters even after they have finished their toursof duty. The story goes on to tell us how they cope in the regular day-to-day world when back at home. Although some closure is provided, this play is far from happily-ever-after. Regardless of what happens at the close of the play, these men still have a lifetime of coping ahead.

“Dogs of Baghdad” hits home with its up-to-date plotline and real life circumstances creating a powerful and moving drama that everyone can relate to in one way or another.

The play, although well written, well performed and powerful in meaning, is presented as soup would be, a mix of scenes that at times do follow one another but are not required to. Jacobelly and Fenton’s intent to stray away from the typical narrative does eventually come together at the end but makes it hard to follow throughout.

Along with the precarious scene line-up, the title of the play also boggles the mind a bit. The actually dogs are only mentioned a few times throughout the performance and even then they do not play a major role in the plot.

Other than to say that Baghdad is populated, or maybe polluted depending on the outlook, with wild dogs because the Arabs do not believe in keeping them as pets, and also to say that one soldier, Padilla, loves dogs because he feels that they are loyal and intelligent, the dogs of Baghdad do not seem to be prominent.

Though, it is possible that the dogs are a metaphor, comparing the actual dogs to the U.S. Troops who are unwelcome in the Middle East but yet are seen as loyal and intelligent to the Americans.

Regardless of the scene arrangement and ambiguous title, the concept and performance carry the play to its success.

A cast of six committed actors, Arellano, Bouffard and Khastoo, along with Leon Fazzio, Courtney Geigle and Frantz St. Louis, honor the men and women who have served and are currently serving overseas.

The play will continue to be performed in the Promenade Playhouse in Santa Monica, 1404-08 3rd Street Promenade, on Fridays, July 6 and 13 at 8:00 p.m. and on Sundays, July 8 and 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The Promenade Playhouse is a small black-box theater that carries approximately 40 people. Its cozy ambiance and minimal set design pull the whole play together. The audience knows from the moment they walk in that they should not expect “Dogs of Baghdad” to be the equivalent of a glitzy and glamorous blockbuster hit, but the friendly atmosphere and mindful play would definitely be able to hold its own as a Sundance hit.

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