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Review: This is War/Signal Ensemble Theatre

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(L to R) Michael Finley , Courtney Jones, Dylan Stuckey and Billy Fenderson/Photo: Johnny Knight

(L to R) Michael Finley, Courtney Jones, Dylan Stuckey and Billy Fenderson/Photo: Johnny Knight

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More than 16 million Americans served in World War II; in contrast, United States forces in Iraq numbered 112,000 in 2010 to 2011. While we may still be mired in conflict, we are not surrounded by the level of sacrifice that was necessary in the 1940s. As a result, the public is ignorant of the demands that the military places on the average soldier. Hannah Moscovitch successfully explores the physical and psychological cost for Canadian service personnel, and the lifelong wounds they suffer.

In 2008, Canadian forces hold down the roughest part of Afghanistan, awaiting NATO assistance that’s not coming. Sgt. Stephen Hughes (Billy Fenderson), Private Jonny Henderson (Michael Finley), Master Cpl.Tanya Young (Courtney Jones) and Sgt. Chris Anders (Dylan Stuckey) struggle with the emotional and physical demands of a tour of duty; the ensemble effectively captures the hair-trigger temper that’s symptomatic of such a stressful environment. The performers also successfully dramatize the sexual tension that’s part and parcel of a wartime setting.

Finley’s naïve Jonny is greener than a Canadian May and Finley plays him dumb but endearing. Jones’ master corporal is surrounded by male attention and struggles with the inability to resist it. Fenderson and Stuckey are compelling; they radiate a palpable carnal desire. Moscovitch’s script feels repetitive in flashback, but illustrates its argument eloquently: we no longer know what it takes to defend our nation. (Lisa Buscani)

Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 West Berenice, (773)698-7389. Through September 28.

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