The War On Terror has been waged for almost fourteen years, and the theater community is still looking for new ways to address it. Deployed, a new musical in the New York Musical Theater Festival examines the war in Iraq through the eyes of a couple who try to make their relationship work, even when one of them is always on the other side of the world.
Emily (Played by Janice Landry) is a soldier who doesn’t get any respect from the male members of her unit, so she decides to volunteer for service in Iraq. Anthony (Bryant Martin) is her boyfriend, who has just returned from a traumatic tour of duty in which he accidentally killed a civilian. He doesn’t want her to suffer through the same experiences as he did, but Emily is tired of being a joke to her fellow soldiers, and she heads off to Iraq, leaving Anthony behind.
The subject matter is the stuff of grand tragedy, but Deployed mixes this story with an equal amount of farce. For every scene in which someone sings about the horrors of war, there is another scene where the wacky supporting cast has a comedy number.
These scenes tend to be sandwiched together so that audiences will watch Anthony wail about the child he killed, then a few minutes later hear an outrageous Frenchman sing about how sexy his accent is (Complete with a lyric that rhymes “Pamplemousse” with “Chocolate mousse”).
Elsewhere a sexually frustrated female soldier (Played by an under-used Natalie Toro) sings a bawdy tune about all the hot young men in her unit, while the very next scene is an Iraqi civilian lamenting the death of her entire family, and shortly thereafter a pair of Hollywood divas dressed like drag queens show up for a number that seems right out of Kinky Boots.
The disappointing thing about Deployed is that the serious moments do form an interesting story. Emily and Anthony’s tale might work very well if the show stripped away all the farce. The cast does an excellent job with what they’re given, but the performances can’t compensate for the way that the show shifts so drastically in tone every few minutes.
Complicating matters is the swarm of subplots that suddenly emerge in the final minutes of the first act. As intermission approaches every supporting character abruptly reveals their hidden motives, or shocking secret, all over the course of one or two songs. When the second act starts, the show sorts out all of these plotlines in a race to reach the finale. The book writer / lyricist, Jessy Brouillard touches on each plot thread for a moment, then charges on to a finish that borders on melodrama.
Deployed doesn’t have any new insights into the Iraq war, or the recent rise of ISIS in the region. Rather, it takes place at an undefined point before Osama Bin Laden was killed, essentially turning “The 2000’s” into a generic time period like “The 60’s”. It has one performance left as of this writing. More information can be found at www.deployedthemusical.com.