Black Box Asbury Park presents a reading of “Order 17,” a new full-length play by Stephen Larsen, on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. at the Coastal Arts Studio 66 South Main Street, Ocean Grove.
The play follows two men, an Army Civilian Journalist and a former-Special-Forces-
In November 2004, a year-and-a-half after President Bush gave a speech on an aircraft carrier with a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging behind him, Iraq was still in the middle of a bloody insurgency.
“When I deployed to Iraq a year-and-a-half later, as a civilian journalist for the Army, we came under fire at every location we visited. Mortar attacks, car bombs, machine guns, and IEDs were a daily occurrence,” playwright Larsen says. “I felt like Yossarian in Joseph Heller’s novel Catch 22. He discovers that ‘Catch 22’ means that those who had power could do whatever they wanted to – it didn’t have to make sense. We were supposed to be there to help Iraqis – yet we destroyed their infrastructure.”
But it was the toll that the war took on the lives of average Iraqi citizens that most struck Larsen. “I don’t think we have heard enough about how the war in Iraq affected Iraqis. Our sanctions, prior to the war – and the war itself – were aimed at Saddam and the high-ranking Ba’athists. But for the most part, Saddam’s elite still lived like princes, while average Iraqis suffered greatly, their families devastated by the war itself, and then increasingly caught up in the middle of sectarian violence.”
Most of the Iraqis he came into contact with refused to make eye contact and seemed angry. “Seeing the devastation in their country, I could not blame them. Had our roles been reversed, I know I would be quite angry. I wanted to write about how the war affected these people.”
“Order 17” is part of the New Play Initiative at the Black Box.
“We run a monthly playwriting workshop,” said Alexis Kozak, who moderates the group. “Stephen is an extraordinarily talented writer who does a lot of research, because he insists on getting the details right. He has an ability to put characters in morally precarious situations that attack you both cerebrally and emotionally. With ORDER 17, he has written a troubling play that questions the implied morality of Americans around the world.”
There is a $5 suggested donation. For more information log onto www.blackboxnj.org.