POST: '9 Circles' - my heart was so conflicted

What's it about?

9 Circles tells the true story of Daniel Reeves, a soldier on trial for crimes committed during the Iraq War.

What I experienced?

INTENSE. That's how I left this show. My heart felt so heavy walking out of the theater. It felt WAY too overwhelming for a Wednesday night. I felt like I was going to go through the rest of the week depressed. I was sad, conflicted, confused, and impressed all at the same time. All I could think was Wow. Wow. Wow. SO. MUCH. FEELS. It was nothing like what I expected the show to be. Granted, I didn't really think too much about the story line when I asked to see the show. I personally find dark things to be intriguing, so when I saw the title 9 Circles (referencing the nine circles of hell from Dante's Inferno), I was sold. 

I arrived with a few minutes to spare so I read a welcome pamphlet included in the playbill. That's when I started wondering what the heck I was thinking picking this show. The director says that 9 circles will "grab you by the throat" and "turn you upside down." What did I sign up for??!! Then I hear a George Bush speech about the Iraq War playing in the background until the show started. Mmkay, mmkay. Something about the Iraq war. But boy, it was a LOT deeper than that.

I was introduced to the main character, Daniel, a soldier who is being "honorably discharged" because he has a personality disorder. Man, he seemed CRAY. He was yelling at his sergeant, protesting. He says he doesn't care about killing people and he wants to kill everyone and I'm like okkkkkk yeah you can't be in the army. He's accused of murdering an Iraqi family. He, along with three other soldiers killed a mother, father, and four year old girl.  They also raped and burned the body of a 14 year old girl. Whoa. This show just got heavy, QUICK.

The way he spoke about how he couldn't care less because they were the enemy, and that "they" were out to get America because that's what "they" do annoyed me. We are living in a time where tensions are at their highest where there is an us vs. them mentality. So people being generalized and Daniel, showing no remorse for what he had done, made me despise him as a character.  

I loved that each scene began as a circle of hell, each one getting progressively worse and more complicated.

Daniel is found guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Three soldiers testify against him and get 10 years with parole. The whole time during the trial, my heart was so conflicted. My eyes were in a ping pong match between the two lawyers. One minute I'm thinking GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! and the next the defense has me thinking wellllllllll maybe he's not fully responsbile given the circumstances. Damn lawyers are good.

The story was complex, humans are complex. It's not exactly black and white. Here we had a clearly troubled teen who joined the army to escape his life and was recruited, despite his personality disorder and history of substance abuse being known. So how much fault did he really have in the way things played out? He even sought help from the military psychiatrist when he thought that he wasn't thinking normal thoughts. 

The whole show made me think deeply about the whole concept of war in a new light. I mean yes, conceptually no one likes war. But this play made it REAL. People get hurt, people die, people come back traumatized. It made me think, what are we fighting for? Is it worth it? During war, are there certain scenarios where it's understandable to do terrible things? How responsible are we for our actions given the physical and mental toll that being at war can have on a person? These are questions that I thought about. And man, did I think long and hard.

The final scene killed me. It's Daniel, standing dead center stage. He's voicing his thoughts as he dies and it really does "grab you by the throat" because the whole room was silent. I was speechless, immersed in this final scene. Afterward, I overheard many people say "Wow. That was intense acting.  That's what was incredible." But, the play didn't seem like it was acting to me. For those 2 hours, I felt like I was there, observing everything. I felt like I couldn't really detach from the play because it was based on a true story. Usually, with other heavy plays, I can walk away not too upset because it never really happened. But this HAPPENED to someone. That's what made this play so real and raw, and something I will never forget.

Want to see it?

Sorry, this show is not currently showing :(

What did you experience?

Let PXP know in the comments below...