“America, almost now” is the tagline of “Occupation”, a potent and important play by Merri Biechler. With the horrible Orlando terrorist murders happening yesterday, it seems like that “almost” is nearly here.
“Occupation” paints a vivid, but poetic portrait of a war-torn, terrorist-riddled America. Five women take the stage and begin their personal stories of our country gone mad. They speak in segments, poetically setting up the drama/trauma to come. Merri Biechler is a wizard with words and her script is more of a poetic tapestry than a linear narrative. It had a very spiritual effect on me. I loved her use of repetition — which brought to mind the call and response technique of some religious church services. I must say I especially love when a writer respects an audience enough to not fully spell everything out and allows viewers to confidently pull the story together. Without getting lost. Biechler sets up questions that are satisfactorily paid off.
The title has a dual meaning — the occupation of the country by the government, conscripting the men to fight in a terror-induced conflict, leaving the women to their own occupations — jobs that define them as well as give them a reason to go on. A way to be of service. To be useful. (I especially love when a writer goes deeper beyond obvious meanings.)
The ensemble of actors were all top notch and brought nuanced performances to their characters as each slowly revealed the nature of her occupation—-especially poignant was Jennifer Ashe as the Tattoo Mother and the chilling nature of her job.
David Robinson’s direction was ingenious and he used the small stage well. I loved the projections that showed slides of the backstories of the women, their families; and happier times before the CTE (“Coordinated Terror Attack”). I felt I got to know the women a little more through the visuals, which were important to the overall impact of their stories.
What I didn't like
I didn’t understand why the actors changed their clothes at the beginning of the play. It didn’t make a difference in my enjoyment of the play, but wasn’t sure why they didn’t come out wearing their costumes.
My overall impression
A tapestry of poetic writing. A powerful ensemble cast. An important, potent, moving play that speaks to the world we live in today.