5th Wall’s ‘The Human Terrain’ creates gripping, beautiful story
5Th Wall Theatre threw down the gauntlet with its hilarious and heartbreaking start to the festival, The Lyons.
With the stunning The Human Terrain, 5th Wall demonstrates its versatility and its commitment to taking theatre beyond the boundary of four walls.
The storyline is so gripping, the ending so beautiful it took my breath away.
Jennifer Blackmer’s thought-provoking script is deftly directed by Carol Piersol. The Human Terrain tells the story of Mabry Hoffman (McLean Jesse) an Arabic speaking anthropologist embedded with the U.S. Military as part of the controversial Human Terrain System (HTS).
The story is fictional, but the HTS is an actual program of the United States Army which employs personnel from social science disciplines – such as anthropology, sociology, and linguistics – to provide military commanders and staff with an understanding of the local population – the “human terrain.”
Mabry’s mandate is to win the hearts and minds of the locals. She works to gain their trust while mapping local customs and identifying key community leaders, and finds herself torn between her allegiance to the military, and the compassion she feels for her subjects.
Mabry respects and admires her commander Captain William Alford (Dean Knight), despises the trigger happy Private Jake Harrison (Gordon Lewanowicz), and grudgingly grows fond of Private Calvin Detty (Daniel Kunkel) assigned as her escort when the situation becomes too dangerous for Mabry to be on her own.
The Unit’s confrontation with a young Iraqi boy, Kemal (Saleh Ismael), has the audience on the edge of their seats.
When Mabry is forced to wear a firearm, she fears that having an escort and carrying a weapon will erase the inroads she has made with the locals, particularly Adiliah (Sarah Heifetz), an Iraqi woman who comes to trust Mabry and calls on the young anthropologist to question all she knows to be true.
The two women’s opposite views and heated discussions of the function of the Hijab – a veil covering the head – provide for some of the most moving moments in the play.
The play opens with Mabry being interrogated in the United States by DA Kate Moore (Katrinah Carol Lewis). She is terrified and confused.
The Human Terrain explores what happens when cultures collide, and depicts the dire cost of conflict and war. It is also the story of one woman, Mabry, forced to map the terrain of her own heart and confront what it means to be human.
The Human Terrain is one of the most beautifully written scripts I’ve seen brought to life. A superb cast, austere setting and accurate costumes transport the audience into a war zone and a detention center.
5Th Wall Theatre’s production is beyond compare.
The Human Terrain runs through April 11, 2015 at HATTheatre on 1124 Westbriar Drive in RVA. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.5thWallTheatre.org.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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