“9 Circles” produced by Strawberry Theatre Workshop

Ah, the rationales provided for war! We say we’ve come to some far off land to give help, but what we actually do is kill people. And poor PFC Daniel Edward Reeves, the main character in this play is one who has been trained to do that dirty work. He’s being sent home with an honorable discharge before his tour is up, but he doesn’t want that. “Sir, I took an oath! I don’t want to be sent home. Please do not make me break my oath.”

This young, somewhat disturbed, high school drop out who never should have been inducted into the army in the first place murdered an Iraqi family and raped and murdered its young daughter. His superiors have found a way to quietly get rid of him. If he won’t go, he must face a court martial. And so poor PFC Reeves begins his journey through the circles of hell.

Along the way he encounters a Christian minister, a psychiatrist, army lawyers. Each has recommendations; each has preconceived notions; and, of course, each has a personal agenda. Reeves can scarcely understand much of the jargon, can’t distinguish those who really want to help him from those who have other plans.

The personal becomes the political. Truth becomes snared in fiction. The actions of civilian Iraqis that resulted in deaths and torture of U.S. troops are juxtaposed to the actions of PFC Reeves. Reeves knows soldiers who were killed for revenge by noncombatants . . . but who and where are the noncombatants? This is a play you won’t soon forget.

The acting couldn’t be better. There’s not a weak member in the supporting cast. And Conner Neddersen as Reeves is a presence! I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’s haunted. He’s confused. He twitches. His hands move as if they are disconnected to his body. He is of course on stage throughout the play, and this is a play where acting is paramount.

There is almost no set, just a table, a couple of chairs, no backdrop. But the lighting, what wonderful lighting Reed Nakayama provides. He brings it from above, from below, straight on, subdued. There’s no need of elaborate set with that lighting.

This is the last week of this thought-provoking production. You’d be wise to hurry and get your tickets.

Through June 25 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle (Brownpapertickets.com, 800 838-3006)

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