On Wednesday night I saw the Synetic Theater’s Home of the Soldier, a new play from DC’s dance/movement troupe best known for their wordless adaptations of Shakespeare. The quality of Synetic shows is usually inversely proportionate to the number of words spoken. Their wordless Shakespeare is generally stunning, creepy, funny and sublime. Unfortunately, Home of the Soldier has a script, and I can’t recommend it, although the lead actor is a huge suffering statue and I’d be happy to watch him in other shows.
The story is a baggy and emotionally-manipulative tale of a soldier trying to rescue his POW father. The details are based on documentary footage and interviews with current and recent military personnel, though, and one detail really stood out to me in light of Nan Levinson’s article on the “moral injuries” of warfare.
That article, it seemed to me, was in part about the starkly divergent moral worlds of home and warzone, and the military’s attempt to craft a warzone mentality which would displace the home mentality. This sense that soldiers are imbued with a totally different mindset adapted to war is part of the distance and exoticism both soldiers and civilians perceive when the fighters come home, and Levinson’s piece suggests that learning to understand and accept what happened in the warzone means learning to apply the home mentality to the war events. Learning to make the mental wall into a porous fabric.
But Home of the Soldier suggests that in the warzone itself, the fabric is already porous. At war the soldiers still Skype with their families, seeing and hearing them with an immediacy beyond (say) the preopened letters they’d receive in earlier wars. The fighter has to hold in his mind simultaneously his identities as father and soldier, husband and killer. The two identities, the two worldviews, interpenetrate–but that doesn’t seem to make them easier to reconcile.