Political commentary comes to campus in "Drunk Enough"
Three screens flashing facts about the United States’ involvement in wars over the past two decades. A bar with audience members seated behind it. Cast members wandering through the aisles, offering drinks to the 40 or so attendees. From these details alone, the audience could tell that “Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?” would not be a typical play.
The Artists’ Theater of Boston’s production of “Drunk Enough,” written by Caryl Churchill, played last weekend at the Spingold Theater Center’s Merrick Theater. It followed six characters, half named Sam and half named Guy. According to the program, the characters named Guy represented U.S. citizens, while the characters named Sam represented the U.S. The program noted that “[Sam] can’t simply be reduced to any single individual.” Therefore, the play incorporated videos of political speeches and quotations from political higher-ups, like CIA directors, to add to Sam’s voice.
The show opened with a movement piece performed by Bronte Velez ’16. In the question-and-answer session after the play, Velez clarified that she wrote the spoken-word piece and shot the video that accompanied her dance. The piece’s spoken word story followed a black woman who played a game with a white child at a bar, drunkenly tried to drive home and, after knocking on the door of a nearby house for help, was shot. Velez exemplified the shot by hinging backwards and sliding across the floor on her back.
Most of the dialogue consisted of characters speaking in half-sentences, reading out statistics or saying words related to American ideals such as “freedom” and contrasting them with words describing American defensive actions such as “sanctions.” In the talkback, an audience member commented on this dynamic, noting that the play rarely used personal pronouns and that characters mostly spoke in eroticized political language.
The play frequently referred to Vietnam as a subject of the characters’ conversations. An early scene focused on problematizing U.S. anti-communist propaganda in the age of the Vietnam War. The scene involved Guy 1 and Sam 1, played by the Artists’ Theater of Boston’s Will Jobs and Tony Rios, respectively. Rios noted that the U.S. could use anti-communist posters to manipulate voters by implying that communism would endanger their children, thereby prompting voters to support U.S. military operations against communist countries. The pair also mentioned syndicated articles, alluding to allegations that the media manipulated the public in the 1960s to garner support for U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
Following this scene, another couple spoke of American intervention in the Middle East in a similar tone. Sam 3, played by Paola Ferrer, and Guy 3, played by Anneke Reich, discussed the prospect of invading countries for economic reasons, like access to oil, and of using the terrorist-freedom fighter dichotomy to cover this morally gray motivation.
At times, the play’s symbolism felt unclear. For instance, one scene had the female characters lip-sync to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” while images of pop-culture icons appropriating black culture — Miley Cyrus wearing a grill, Katy Perry in cornrows, etc. — flashed on-screen behind them. Was the scene pointing out how pop culture could distract from political events? Or was it comparing the way white celebrities used the products of other cultures to the way economically-motivated American military operations use the resources from countries with populations of color? Any number of meanings could be applied. However, this scene revealed one of the best parts of the play — its ambiguity.
Overall, the play was a litmus test for how politically informed and/or skeptical a viewer was. That scenes had ambiguous meanings and that some of the political terms struck the audience as unfamiliar furthered the play’s goal of showing how U.S. actions have impacts that are less logical and farther-reaching than many of its citizens would suspect.
The minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation; the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences; the department of English; the Mandel Center for the Humanities; the minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies; the program in Social Justice and Social Policy; the department of Theater Arts; and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program sponsored the show.