Peace and War in the Heartland


'Peace Crimes': So many characters, so little time
By Renee Valois
Special to the Pioneer Press

Many people have drawn parallels between the war in Iraq a
nd the Vietnam War. The legacy of the nation-shaking events of 1968 has also been a hot topic in 2008. So it makes sense that the History Theatre has decided to collaborate with the University of Minnesota theater department to mount an original show examining how a handful of Minnesotans broke into government offices to destroy draft records during the Vietnam War.

"Peace Crimes: The Minnesota Eight vs. the War" by Doris Baizley gives us an interesting glimpse of true events.

We understand why the eight men involved were so incensed — and that their motives for the break-in were idealistic. They wanted to protest the war in a public fashion and also to save young men like themselves from being forced to fight in a war they didn't believe in.
However, with so many characters to get to know in so little time, the play never delves with any depth into any one personality — resulting in an interesting historical story that isn't deeply moving.

This is no fault of the actors. Director Ron Peluso has chosen the cast well, and U of M student actors blend seamlessly with the pros. It's just that none of them is given enough material to fully flesh out the real people behind the Minnesota Eight.

We do spend a little more time with Frank, played with conflicted introspection by Nick Freeman. But we know so little even about him that it's unclear whether Frank is a rebel priest or simply an employee of the Catholic Church. Frank does a lot of preaching but also has a lovely girlfriend — convincingly played as a '60s flower child by Natalie Remus.
Since the show's action jumps around in location and time (primarily between 1968 and 1973), it also has some trouble building dramatic tension, although Peluso does an admirable job of maintaining clarity despite the frequent shifts.

The play purports to ask whether the crimes were acts of patriotism or treason, but the show's sympathies clearly lie with the protesters. Most of the young men chose to go to trial, risking prison — so they could state their case against the war in the media — and the show suggests "peace crimes" trump war crimes.



What: "Peace Crimes"
Where: Rarig Center, University of Minnesota, Mpls.
When: Through March 9
Tickets: $25, $10 U of M students
Information: 651-292-4323;

Capsule: An interesting historical piece casting its shadow across Iraq.





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