Credit: Evan Hanover

In Griffin Theatre artistic director William Massolia’s adaptation of Ryan
Smithson’s 2009 memoir, Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI, Ryan (Sam
Krey), a high school student with little talent and no ambition, decides to
join the U.S. Army after 9/11 when he’s struck by an overwhelming sense of
love for his fellow Americans as he stands with his junior-college-bound
sweetheart in front of a fence strewn with memorabilia for those who fell
with the World Trade Towers. As Ryan tells the story of his deployment to
and return from Iraq, photographs of the scenes he describes are projected
onto a paper screen behind him. The resulting image is not unlike those
cardboard figures with an oval cutout for the face, only here, the
motionless figures in the photos-GIs packed into their aircraft for
deployment, hungry Iraqi children with their arms outstretched, soldiers
facing the empty helmet of their dead friend-bear far more of the aura of
life than the actor telling the story, though Krey is valiant in his
portrayal of a “GI Joe Schmoe.”

The problem is partly the form. There simply are too many words in this
play, and Ryan is put into the position of narrating rather than
representing his story. While that may be fine for a memoir, a play
generally benefits from some action, if it is not also graced with some
interaction. This play also contains baldly positive sentiments about
weapons, warfare, and religion that are difficult to take seriously if you
are not a young white male pro-military Christian American.   v