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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 16, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 38
Bad Apples doesn't quite come together as it should
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Bad Apples doesn't quite come together as it should

by Paul Torres - SGN A&E Writer

BAD APPLES
CO-PRODUCED BY
ACT THEATRE/ACTLAB,
ARTSWEST, AND CIRCLE X
THEATRE (AT ACT THEATRE)
Through September 25


We expect atrocities during wartime. The images of tortured and degraded Iraqi prisoners from Abu Ghraib in 2004 are shocking and embarrassing. They were also divisive. What some saw as a national shame, others saw it as a symbol of patriotic pride.

Bad Apples by Jim Leonard attempts to bring these events to us as a rock musical with music and lyrics by Beth Thornley and Rob Cairns. Although there are references with images of President George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, John McCain, and Mohammed Atta, this production is loosely based on the events at Abu Ghraib prison that were televised on an famous '60 Minutes II' segment with Dan Rather.

Director John Langs is tasked with bringing this to the ACT stage. Unfortunately, Bad Apples doesn't quite come together as it should. At three hours, some songs and scenes could've been edited. The songs - a mixture of rock, ballads, and rap - don't quite stick with you. However, the acting talent is superb. In this production, Langs specializes in those tiny spotlight moments with the characters baring themselves to the audience. Each main character has their moment to shine even if it's in a sparse solo light.

This story is about a volatile love triangle. It's a highly plausible scenario during a deployment in the desert with recruits and their driving sexual desires and sheer boredom, but it seems to trivialize the actual events that shadow over it: the unlawful and cruel torture of prisoners. The saving grace is that there are some deeply touching moments by the principal actors.

Kate Morgan Chadwick as Lindsay Skinner is the young and naïve southern girl, a well-used trope, but she gives the character grace and appeal. Carlton Byrd portrays Chuck, the apparent ringleader. Byrd's performance, in contrast to Chadwick's, is unapologetically masculine and brutal. As Lt. Scott, Keiko Green brilliantly rounds out the delicate balance of the outstanding key performances.

Frederick Hagreen performs as Cunny, a southern Christian boy who is at once morally at odds with the atrocities he's witnessing, but also very eager to get laid. Hagreen, who was excellent as Johnny in Green Day's American Idiot, impresses with his sure-handed performance. His soaring rock ballad is a sweet and longing homily that rises and falls with heartfelt sentiment.

Fifteen years after 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed, maybe the subject matter is still too sensitive to shed light on and we still need more time to have a proper perspective. If the point of Bad Apples is to create a modern version of Hair (politically controversial in its day, but with masterpiece songs), then it sorely misses the mark. If the point is to bring these horrible breaches of American values through the tawdry prism of a doomed love triangle to the conversation table, then it has somewhat succeeded.

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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
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Bad Apples doesn't quite come together as it should
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Bad Apples needs to go back to the drawing board
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Strawberry Theatre Workshop presents Ionesco's Rhinoceros
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CONTAGIOUS EXCHANGES: Queer Writers in Conversation

New Hugo House Series - 'Claiming a Space to Discuss Queer Issues in Literature'

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Bette Midler releasing deluxe edition of The Divine Miss M
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Gordon-Levitt shines but Stone's Snowden still a sluggish disappointment
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Suitably scary Blair Witch a surprisingly good sequel
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