Ethics and War Hits The Post

Jane Horwitz came in with a great, information packed piece in today’s BACKSTAGE column in The Washington Post.

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‘Ethics and War’

With both of the area’s religion-focused theater companies doing main-stage plays about ethics in wartime, they’ve decided to collaborate on staged readings to explore the subject further.

Theater J usually focuses on Jewish cultural or spiritual themes, but its latest production, “Honey Brown Eyes,” is a stark drama by Stefanie Zadravec, about Muslims and Christians caught up in the Bosnian war of the early 1990s. It begins previews tonight and runs through Nov. 30.

Journeymen Theater Ensemble, which has a subtly Christian perspective, is staging the world premiere of “As American As” by Ken Prestininzi, associate chair/lecturer in playwriting at the Yale School of Drama. The darkly comic take on the “war on terror” going out of control on the home front runs tonight through Nov. 15 at Church Street Theater.

Under the umbrella title “Ethics and War,” the readings will take place on consecutive Mondays (Oct. 27, Nov. 3 and Nov. 10) at 7:30 p.m. at Church Street Theater.

The idea for the series clicked when Artistic Directors Ari Roth of Theater J and Deborah Kirby of Journeymen met during the summer’s Source Festival. Roth says he realized he’d found “a kindred theater company which has a foot in the world of spiritual exploration.”

The subject is “a perfect fit for Theater J and Journeymen,” Kirby says. “It’s a political discussion set against kind of an ethical background, which I got excited about,” she adds.

“We’re not really highlighting the religious underpinnings of our organizations,” Roth says, but “nonetheless, we’re dealing with questions of ethical behavior and how to judge that during wartime. And of course, the role of the church, both in a reason to go to war, and a reason to protest war.”

The Oct. 27 reading has a daunting title: “Deposition on Water-Boarding: From the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel Testimony Before the House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.” It is adapted and staged by Jeffrey Sichel. The cast will include Rick Foucheux, Tim Getman, Nigel Reed and Jeff Allin.

An icon of the Vietnam era will be read on Nov. 3: “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” by Daniel Berrigan, directed by Rahaleh Nassri. It premiered in 1972 and is based on transcripts of the trial of antiwar activist priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan, who were convicted of burning Selective Service records. Jerry Whiddon and Michael Willis will play them.

The Nov. 10 reading is a new work by Israeli playwright Motti Lerner (“Pangs of the Messiah”). “Benedictus: An Iran-Israel-US Collaboration” imagines that an Israeli Jew and an Iranian Muslim, once childhood friends, meet at a monastery to talk about preventing a U.S. attack on Iran. Daniella Topol will direct a cast including Conrad Feininger and Michael Kramer.

In addition to the staged readings, Theater J will offer post-show discussions and “peace cafes” during the run of “Honey Brown Eyes.” Playwright Zadravec (who grew up in Chevy Chase) will participate on Sunday and former senator and defense secretary William Cohen will take part on Nov. 2. At http://www.theaterj.org, click on “Honey Brown Eyes,” then “artistic director roundtables.”