NYMF Review #4: A History Of War

            My name is Genghis Kahn, Little Boy.

                                  LITTLE BOY
            Genghis Kahn was the emperor of the Mongol Empire.

            Attention has been paid.

                                  Kahn gestures.
                                  The other Dictators appear.

                                  LITTLE BOY
            What is this?

            The past you never had, the future you'd abandoned --
            It's called War, Little Boy.

            My name is Julius Caesar, I created the Roman Empire.

            Napoleon Bonaparte.  French Empire.

                                  BIN LADEN
            Osama Bin Laden. I'm going to try to destroy the
            World Trade Center

            Lynette Fromme --

            Sara Jane Moore --

                                  FROMME, MOORE
            Gerald Ford.

                                  LITTLE BOY
            I don't get this.

            Yeah sorry, accidentally left some "Assassins" bits in.

Take Stephen Sonheim and John Weidman's Assassins.  Replace the presidential murderers with history's most ruthless dictators.  And instead of Neil Patrick Harris, let's just have a ten year old boy.  If you're not a fan of Assassins' abstract, non-linear thematic-heavy structure, A History Of War is probably not for you.  But if you, like me, think that Assassins is great...

Well, then you may find that The History Of War shows great promise, but is quite a few rewrites away from a solid show.

Here's the basic premise, and if this doesn't sound promising I don't know what does: A young boy, trying to understand war and why his father died for it, concocts a fantasy where he is surrounded by Genghis Kahn, Julius Caesar, Osama Bin Laden, Idi Amin, Alexander the Great, Adolph Hitler, and Napoleon.  These famous historical figures interact, argue, dance, and even harmonize about one of their greatest dictatoral tools, The Television (a replacement for Assassins' "The Gun Song").  But where Assassins gives us a scene for each of its murderers to lend us some insight into why they did what they did and who they were, A History Of War usually treats its tyrants as caricatures, instead spending much of the time on an uninteresting and undeveloped plot about the young boy's stepfather (who weirdly interacts with and serves drinks to the dictators, for some reason).  By the time you get to the predictable-but-satisfying-ending, you start to realize the glimmers of what a wonderful show this could have been.  I'd love to see the creators continue working on it because although it feels labored and confusing right now, it's clear to see that there is a lot of potential in this piece.



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