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In this uneven production, two conflicts play out on a set that replicates the Vietnam memorial

Wednesday, Nov 8 2006
Americans love to fight, whether it's against communists or terrorists in a country on the other side of the planet or about artistic integrity in our own backyard. Walls, written in 1989 by local playwright Jeannie Barroga, taps into the myriad emotions following the Vietnam War and leading up to the building and unveiling of its controversial memorial in Washington, D.C. In the Asian American Theater Company's uneven production, two conflicts play out on a set that replicates the polished black marble monument. One drama focuses on the grab bag of characters (soldiers, mothers, hippies, buddies who avoided the draft) who visit the wall to wrestle with their unresolved anger and anguish. These characterizations have been done before and better in many of the great Vietnam films. What feels fresh and relevant here is the second conflict, the story of Maya Lin — the 21-year-old Chinese-American monument design contestant who "wasn't even 10 when [soldiers] were over there getting blown to bits." The shit storm her winning idea stirred up between her artistic vision and the countless opposing opinions of what a fitting memorial should look like explains why there's still an empty hole in south Manhattan five years after 9/11. What's disturbingly familiar about Lin's struggle more than 20 years ago is witnessing how paralyzed a country can become in simply choosing an architectural design, let alone hashing out the reasons for a war. — Nathaniel Eaton

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Nathaniel Eaton


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