Review: In the Heart of America (Theatre Seven)

| March 9, 2012
T7 In the Heart America 05 (L to R) Fawzia Mirza as Fairouz and Anthony DiNicola as Remzi       
In the Heart of America 

Written by Naomi Wallace 
Directed by Brian Golden
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru April 1  |  tickets: $20-$22   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review


Does anyone come out a true hero in war?


T7 In the Heart America 03 (l to r) Nick Vidal as Craver and George Zerante as Boxler

Theatre Seven of Chicago presents
In the Heart of America

Review by K.D. Hopkins

In the talk back after the Saturday performance of In The Heart of America, director Brian Golden stated that this play is hard to sell. He was referring to the subject matter of war and all of the horrors of life during wartime. If there is a treatise on war that deserves wide exposure, it is this play.

T7 In the Heart America 01 (l to r) Fawzia Mirza as Fairouz and Nick Vidal as CraverPlaywright Naomi Wallace weaves a surreal telling of Operation Desert Shield and the Vietnam War. The scenes cross timelines and storylines. The effect is of being a voyeur sinking into a cross cultural dream. This is the story of Fairouz, a Palestinian-American woman who travels to a seedy motel in Georgia to search for her missing brother Remzi who served in Iraq.

Fawzia Mirza gives a searing performance as Fairouz. Mirza delivers her lines with palpable angst and bitterness. Wallace’s dialogue delivers a few shocks even to my seasoned ears. The character of Fairouz blends patriotism for both countries and a motherly love for her brother.

Remzi’s platoon mate Craver is played by Nick Vidal. At first sight, Craver seems a cartoonish hick from Kentucky who literally does headstands to impress Fairouz, but this makes it painfully clear that everyone sends babies to war. Vidal fills the character of Craver with a playfulness that is at odds with the atrocities that are ingrained into a soldier. Craver is a kid who would be in the family business if there were one. He proudly announces his poor White trash background and it is made clear that the armed forces were his only escape from unemployment and aimlessness. The intimate relationship between Craver and Remzi does not come as a surprise but as a relief. It is a comfort to know that the bonds of love and companionship were sustained in Remzi’s life.

Anthony DiNicola is heartbreaking in the role of Remzi. Di Nicola gives off a delightful boyishness and fearlessness as Remzi the soldier and brother. Fairouz tells the story of how Remzi would try to mix potions to cure her crippled foot as a way to make up for standing by as she is held down by school bullies. DiNicola is so sweet as he portrays a little boy blending citrus peels and other spices to soak her foot. In the Iraqi desert, Remzi and Craver bond over innocuous games of racing and morbid games of how one would walk to look at his buddy’s dead body. They imagine the proper swagger in order to be brave. In The Heart of America makes a subtle statement that war is make believe to a young soldier until the real bullets fly.

Remzi and Craver grow up as they fill their lungs with sand and learn to kill. Their drill instructor/ commander is a camouflaged over-the-edge soldier named Boxler (George Zerante). When the audience is introduced to Boxler, two ghosts appear. One is Lt. Calley of My Lai Massacre infamy and the other is Lue Ming, one of Calley’s victims.

T7 In the Heart America 02 (l to r) Kaori Aoshima as Lue Ming and Nick Vidal as Craver T7 In the Heart America 04 Anthony DiNicola as Remzi
T7 In the Heart America 07(Front) Fawzia Mirza as Fairouz and Nick Vidal as Craver (Back) George Zerant_0007 001_T7 In the Heart America 07(Front) Fawzia Mirza as Fairouz and Nick Vidal as Craver (Back) George Ze_0017

The atrocity of My Lai is called one for the history books because it was ‘revealed’ after Calley was given a hero’s welcome for ordering the slaughter, rape, and burning of an entire village. The outrage came after the war was over and more considered a wash than a loss. Kaori Aoshima plays Lue Ming with an eerie grace and simmering anger. She appears to crawl out of nowhere and follows Boxler everywhere because he contains the soul and viciousness of Calley and his crimes. Aoshima’s Lue Ming is a specter of longing and pain which turns to razor sharp anger when she questions Boxler/Calley about their atrocities. Boxler/Calley’s answer made my blood run cold.

This is not a play for the squeamish or young children, but it should be seen by everyone who has experienced war only through the lens of the media. Even more so to dispel governmental justification and patriotism as the reasons for war. In The Heart of America questions what it means to be a patriot. It’s not only for America, Palestine, Iraq, or North Vietnam. It’s a deep immersion in the ethnic and cultural tribes of any nation or culture.

Brian Golden has done a stupendous job of directing this play. The rhythm and texture of destruction is starkly portrayed and really stirs the mind. In The Heart of America will continue to be relevant as we are called to wars with other nations and called to be patriots. The play left me with the question of ‘does anyone come out a true hero in war?’

I highly recommend this production and kudos to the cast and Theatre Seven of Chicago.

Rating: ★★★½

In the Heart of America continues through April 1st at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sunday 2:30pm.  Tickets are $20-$22, and are available by phone (773-404-7336) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 1 hour 50 minutes, which includes a 15-minute intermission)

George Zerante as Boxler in Theatre Seven of Chicago's "In the Heart of America" by Naomi Wallace. (photo credit: Amanda Clifford)

All photos by Amanda Clifford 




Kaori Aoshima (Lue Ming), Anthony DiNicola (Remzi), Fawzia Mirza (Fairouz), Nick Vidal (Craver), George Zerante (Boxler)

behind the scenes

Brian Golden (director); Karen Berger (stage manager); Lizzie Bracken (set); Claire Chrzan (lighting); Orion Couling (fight designer); Joe Dybdal (tech director); Kyle Hamman (video); Jeff Kelley (sound); Nick Ward (production manager); Thea Wigglesworth (props); Brenda Winstead (costumes); Amanda Clifford (photos)


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Category: 2012 Reviews, Greenhouse Theater Center, K.D. Hopkins, Theatre Seven

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