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A CurtainUp Review

I mean, yeah, it's gonna be great. We're gonna have house that's just ours. I never had like, ahouse. With grown up stuff in it. All new appliances. A pull out couch for guests, a deck with a grill. New bedroom furniture, a walk in closet. Chris wants to get a dog and I think I might get a sewing machine. I wanna make pillows, I think. Kiss that face, forever.—Sara .—
Darren Goldsmith & Jennifer Mudge
(Photo: Ari Mintz)
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In many ways Oohrah! is about army life. Certainly the title of Bekah Brunstetter's new play, a United States Marine's battle cry (some cite Turkish or Russian origins, but oorah is Hebrew for "awaken"), connotes a military theme. But this intelligent and moving drama making its premiere at Atlantic Theater Company is also about much more. With subtlety and humor it delves into human relationships and what stands in their way.

Oohrah! is set on a large army base in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Two sisters, Sara (Jennifer Mudge) and Abby (Cassie Beck) are living in Sara's home while Sara awaits the return of her husband, Ron (Darren Goldstein), from his tour in Iraq.

Sara, who suspects she is no more than "white trash," tries desperately to remodel herself in the image of Martha Stewart. She is disappointed when her daughter Lacey (Sami Gayle) becomes more interested in shooting a gun than dressing up and attracting young boys. When Ron comes home she wants him to settle into family life. But Ron will never be happy with a lifetime of buying new home appliances, repairing the house and working as a manager at Krispy Kreme.

Abby, a lusty flight attendant, is unsatisfied emotionally and sexually. Although her fiancë Chris (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) is devoted and deeply in love with her she finds him unattractive and boring. She doesn't see that Chris is everything Ron isn't. He loves selecting home accessories and is more interested in Abby than shooting a gun. He is content with his life.

When Abby meets Chip (Maximilian Osinski), a young Marine flying to Fayetteville, she manages to seduce him despite his obvious reluctance. But Chip has his own problems and his own unfulfilled desires.

Ron does not see what his insistence on a military career may lead to. He ignores the example of Sara's father Pop Pop (the excellent JR Horne). He is an aged veteran with dementia who is filled with longing for his dead wife and regrets over his failure to be with her more often when she was alive.

With Evan Cabnet's sensitive and compelling direction, and Lee Savage's meticulously realistic set, Oohrah! can seem like a true slice-of-life. The situations and dialogue are often reminiscent of a T.V. sit-com. But the comedy and drama in the play hit home in a way that's seldom achieved in lesser work.

Anyone who has a sister will most probably find much of Abby and Sara's bittersweet interaction familiar. Mudge and Beck certainly have this relationship nailed. Without having watched the sisters grow up, it's not hard to see how Sara's need for perfection and stability, and Abby's search for excitement and stimulation are two sides of the same neuroses.

Near-Verbrugghe, who could have been stuck in a thankless role, is funny and philosophical. In many ways he is the most sympathetic character in the show. Perhaps his ability to give of himself totally is the model of behavior Brunstetter would like the audience to take away from her play.

Oohrah! is about the way people destroy themselves and the ones they love by asking for the impossible. Sara marries a military man and wants to turn him into a civilian. Abby wants perpetual excitement and titillating sex as a steady diet in marriage. And both Sara and Ron want the virtues they value to blossom in their daughter. It is a very promising work from a playwright making her off-Broadway debut. Hats off to Atlantic Theater Company for giving her this chance.

By Bekah Brunstetter
Directed by Evan Cabnet
Cast: Jennifer Mudge (Sara), Cassie Beck (Abby), Darren Goldstein (Ron), Sami Gayle (Lacey), Maximilian Osinski (Chip), Lucas near-Verbrugghe )Christopher), JR Horne (Pop Pop)
Sets: Lee Savage
Costumes: Jessica Wegener
Lights: Tyler Micoleau
Sound Broken Chord Collective
Fight Director: J. David Brimmer
Running Time: 2 hours, including one intermission Atlantic Theater Company, 330 West 16th Street between 8th & 9th avenues (212) 279-4200
From 9/1/09; opening 9/10/09; closing 9/27/09
Tuesday - Friday, 7:30PM; Saturday & Sunday, 2:30PM & 7:30PM
Tickets: $45
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Sept. 5, 2009
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