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American Joe pits liberal sister against army brother 

Wednesday, Jul 16 2008
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Despite being given life by the same DNA donors and being raised in the same household, siblings often grow into people who bear little resemblance to each other. Liza Raynal explores this tension using the War on Terror as a backdrop in American Joe, her autobiographical solo show at the Marsh directed by David Ford. While she and her younger brother, Joe, grew up in a liberal Bay Area home where organic salad was served, they take radically different paths in adulthood. She becomes a schoolteacher; he drops out of high school and enlists in the military to fight for a cause his pacifist sister doesn't understand. There are some funny moments (such as when "Bad to the Bone" blares from the loudspeakers during Joe's graduation from basic training) and a few touching ones (some people in the audience looked as if they were wiping away tears at the show's end). But overall Raynal delivers an uneven product that loses our interest at times. The grownup Joe, as she portrays him, comes across as a two-dimensional oaf, almost a caricature of what an army grunt talks like. Still, the piece does get across a poignant message: Often we love our family for the same reason some of us decide to serve our country — out of a sense of duty.

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Will Harper

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