Sunday, November 15, 2020

"The Things They Carried" streaming from History Theatre

The History Theatre continues to offer recordings of past productions to stream during this extended intermission. Currently available is the 2017 production of The Things They Carried. I did not see this production, but I did see a 2014 production of this play, presented in rep with Lonely Soldiers: Women at War in Iraq. I hope that they stream the latter play at some point too, because stories of the sexual harassment and assault that women in the military face are just as important to tell as stories of the soldiers of the Vietnam War. But in the meantime, the roughly 70-minute play (with a 20-minute post-show discussion) is a powerful piece and a great choice to watch at home.

Based on a book by Minnesotan and Vietnam vet Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried is a solo storytelling piece in which Pearce Bunting portrays the author, as well as all of the characters in his stories. He jumps around through time, space, and memory, telling stories of his almost-escape from the draft to Canada, his daughter's reaction to hearing he was a soldier, the death of his best friend in the war, and a later trip back to Vietnam. Pearce is a great actor, and it's a pleasure to watch him play all of these characters (not without some humor to break up the tragedy), and convey the complex and varied emotions of the author.

A solo piece like this translates very well to this medium, with the camera focused on the solo actor throughout the show. There are no big production elements or fancy tech effects that might get lost in translation; it's theater in its original form - storytelling.

One of the great things about History Theatre is the post-show discussions they host, often with experts in the field. Because most of their work is original, often dealing with local history, there are often people in the audience with personal experience with the issues of the play. That's the case here, and the discussion (recorded after the 2017 show) is just as powerful as the play.