Clifton Holznagel

Blasted: Casualties of the never-ending war

Defunkt unveils the tender horror of Sarah Kane's searing drama of a bleak human condition


“Blasted,” as a word, draws a picture in the mind. More than most other words, which may simply exist as ways to communicate quickly or as storage containers for current topics, “blasted” can be a verb, an adjective, a curse, or slang for a state of intoxication. You can hear its German roots in a guttural “A” from the ancient past.

That this word, as a blanket expression of destruction, has survived with little change for a millennium and a half is one of many clues that our species is flawed. None of us has a perfect form: we may grow ill, we will die, we may commit a trespass without intention or knowing. There have been those who have stolen out of spite, or desperation. The earliest of us killed another, and we have built compounds to house those who continue to kill into today, tomorrow, and next year. Millions of pages, assemblies, speeches, and debates have tried to describe what our flaws are, why they are important, and what, if anything, can be done to solve them. It is hard to look at ourselves in the mirror and address our failings as a species: our arrogance, ignorance, apathy. Sometimes the more perceptive artists of our time have to make a reminder of how our deficits are fleshing out history.

Love and pain and the whole blasted thing. Photo: Rosemary Ragusa

Love and pain and the whole blasted thing. Photo: Rosemary Ragusa

So Defunkt Theatre is presenting the late Sarah Kane’s Blasted in its continuing love affair with in-yer-face theatre and cutting-edge performances. This time around, the theater has new chairs and a box office, but true to Defunkt style, the space remains intimate and does its part for the play by leaving little room for the issues in the show to be avoided. Defunkt does its best to bring important but seldom popular issues to the table. Psychologically, the audience can’t bow out. Trigger warning: Blasted has two overt and other implied rape scenes, cannibalism, and an infant death. This isn’t a free-for-all Tarantino bloodbath. It’s about bringing the horrors of a foreign war to our shores, to our homes, and showing us what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.


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