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American Warriors in Iraq in Two New Plays

Woodpecker -4.jpg
Brian Norris and Andrew Price in 'The Woodpecker'
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The high price of heroism for U.S. enlisted men in Iraq is explored in two very different plays that opened in small LA theaters last weekend.

In Samuel Brett Williams's The Woodpecker, Jimmy (Brian Norris), a facially disfigured glue-sniffing college dropout who lives in a trailer park with his grossly dysfunctional parents, prays that heading off to war will give him the chance to become a hero. But once he hits the ground and gets assigned to help soften up prisoners for interrogation and torture, he quickly recognizes that the army is offering him nothing but more personal abasement.

The three U.S. marines in Aaron Kozak's The Birthday Boys, captured by an Iraqi militia group and tossed into a desert warehouse blindfolded, their hands and feet bound together with duct tape, are burdened with no such moral conflicts. But they do face almost certain execution within 24 hours. (And to add to the foreboding, the ostensibly unrelated production playing right after The Birthday Boys in the same theater each evening just happens to be titled Everybody Dies in the End.)