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Photo Credit :: J.H. Saunders/Landov
Arts & Entertainment
The Vertical Hour at the Music Box Theater
By Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
December 14, 2006
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If in thinking about this year’s war, you have found yourself weary of the loose flapping of Fox lips and their exhortations to stand behind the latest motivational aphorism emanating from the Dog–-er, I mean, White House, then get thee to the Music Box for David Hare’s The Vertical Hour where a far more considered discourse on the increasingly fraught state of the world can be found. As much about family dynamics and personal morality as it is about the Iraq war, The Vertical Hour succeeds best when its primary character, a former war correspondent turned academic, is engaged in thoughtful, and polemical, dialogue with her boyfriend’s father. As played by Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy, and representing America and Britain, these two characters afford insight into the history of empire and its ever-increasing costs. Whether seated at a grand picnic table or stalking a Welsh country lawn (made manifest by an evocative set by Scott Pask), the two characters reveal the numerous ways in which we are all culpable when nations are at war.

Alas, there’s a dreadfully weak fifth and final scene in which the audience is dragged back to the stultifying confines of the ivory tower (as if to imply we are always students—or that we never learn?), and the intensity of the preceding conversations and the play’s momentum is immediately dissipated—into near nothingness.

Prior to that scene, however, there’s something to chew on and much to consider. And, let’s face it, at this juncture, it behooves all of us to be more contemplative about what’s to be done.