I’m looking forward to playwright Kathleen Cahill’s newest production at Salt Lake Acting Company. I first encountered Cahill’s work in the play The Persian Quarter, which was a taut psycho drama between captor and captive set during the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis (those were simpler times, eh?). Cahill once again turns her eye toward that conflicted region with the world premiere of Harbur Gate, a series of three mini-plays that examine the personal lives of American soldiers during the height of the war in Iraq.
In the first play, Orpheus, we meet two Army medics who are up for the Purple Heart: Chadwick Conroy, a gay man who joined the military to “iron himself out,” and his roommate Carey Pollack, a lesbian who is still mourning the loss of a beloved comrade in battle. The second play, Harbur Gate, takes place in a convoy truck on the road to Mosul, Iraq, where Marines Vinnie Russo and Alyson Moss joust over gender roles in a war zone. In the culminating play, Veteran in a New Field, Michelle Kessler, a Marine veteran suffering from PTSD, has a comedic and ultimately transforming encounter with an image from the Civil War through his interaction with a blind painter in the park.
The three parts that make up the whole span the breadth and depth of the hottest portions of the conflict and cover a lot of ground—LGBT issues, gender roles, America’s supposedly gender-neutral new military, death, heroism and recovery from war. Cahill researched her latest work by interviewing veterans in support groups that meet at VA Hospital at the University of Utah.