On Stage: Words of War from Hollywood Movies

The play, “Gonna See a Movie Called Gunga Din, ” which is running at The Bushwick Starr Theater in Brooklyn, New York, through February 11, is an amalgam of stories collected from real veterans and from scenes from Hollywood war movies voiced by a group of actors as they palaver in a VFW Hall-like setting.

Scenes that the actors act out include several from Vietnam War films such as Apocalypse Now , The Deer Hunter , Casualties of War , Full Metal Jacket , and Born on the Fourth of July . The play, which was conceived and directed by Mark Sitko for his Van Cougar acting company, has  received mixed reviews from the New York theater critics.

“The juxtaposition of these frenzied homages beside the actual veterans’ more modest reminiscences, overlaid with a variety of stage tableaus, does neither half of ‘Gunga Din’ any favors, ” Eric Grode wrote in The New York Times .  “The movie scenes seem even more overwrought in this format (no mean feat in the case of ‘Casualties of War’), while the stumbling, often disjointed testimonials can try the patience by comparison.”

Miriam Felton-Dansky, writing in The Village Voice , said: “At two hours without intermission,  Gunga Din  would benefit from a little editing. And it sometimes batters its audience unnecessarily—one monologue, reflecting on America’s addiction to war, quickly veers into lecture mode. But as the stories accumulate, the piece implies that our society is now a kind of giant, national VFW hall, steeped in the unspoken aftermath of battle—repressed histories that shape us even while we imbibe their adrenaline-laced, idealized imitations in Hollywood-blockbuster form.”

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