The War Boys

by Naomi Wallace. This is a play about three kids who go down to the US-Mexico border to spot illegal crossings — they get a bounty for each person they help the border patrol catch. I don’t have too much to say about this play, except that it manages to accomplish two things on stage that I have so far failed to really get — how the worship of charisma can make people go against their nature (c.f. my one-act Young and Healthy), and how people escape into fantasy to avoid their problems. These three boys, the War Boys, joke with each other, but their kidding borders dangerously on their own pent-up rage and insecurities.

In the end, the play didn’t work for me, although some of the moments are beautiful — Wallace is a genius at finding something in people talking across each other, in having one character lose themselves in their own fantasy while the others join in, but in a way that comments on, rather than reinforces. And then she lets us get caught up in the beauty of a terrible dream, a terrible story, only to yank the rug out from under us — it was all a story.

It is a play worth reading for its themes and for its specificity of location. But in the end I found it more wooden than her other works.

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