'Peace Crimes': So many characters,
so little time
By Renee Valois
Special to the Pioneer Press
Many people have drawn parallels between the war in Iraq and
the Vietnam War. The legacy of the nation-shaking events of
1968 has also been a hot topic in 2008. So it makes sense
that the History Theatre has decided to collaborate with the
University of Minnesota theater department to mount an original
show examining how a handful of Minnesotans broke into government
offices to destroy draft records during the Vietnam War.
"Peace Crimes: The Minnesota Eight vs. the War"
by Doris Baizley gives us an interesting glimpse of true events.
We understand why the eight men involved were so incensed
— and that their motives for the break-in were idealistic.
They wanted to protest the war in a public fashion and also
to save young men like themselves from being forced to fight
in a war they didn't believe in.
However, with so many characters to get to know in so little
time, the play never delves with any depth into any one personality
— resulting in an interesting historical story that
isn't deeply moving.
This is no fault of the actors. Director Ron Peluso has chosen
the cast well, and U of M student actors blend seamlessly
with the pros. It's just that none of them is given enough
material to fully flesh out the real people behind the Minnesota
We do spend a little more time with Frank, played with conflicted
introspection by Nick Freeman. But we know so little even
about him that it's unclear whether Frank is a rebel priest
or simply an employee of the Catholic Church. Frank does a
lot of preaching but also has a lovely girlfriend —
convincingly played as a '60s flower child by Natalie Remus.
Since the show's action jumps around in location and time
(primarily between 1968 and 1973), it also has some trouble
building dramatic tension, although Peluso does an admirable
job of maintaining clarity despite the frequent shifts.
The play purports to ask whether the crimes were acts of patriotism
or treason, but the show's sympathies clearly lie with the
protesters. Most of the young men chose to go to trial, risking
prison — so they could state their case against the
war in the media — and the show suggests "peace
crimes" trump war crimes.
THERE ARE EVEN DISPLAYS IN THE THEATER LOBBY MANNED BY ANTI-WAR
AND PRO-PEACE GROUPS.
IF YOU GO
What: "Peace Crimes"
Where: Rarig Center, University of Minnesota, Mpls.
When: Through March 9
Tickets: $25, $10 U of M students
Information: 651-292-4323; historytheatre.com
Capsule: An interesting historical
piece casting its shadow across Iraq.