The WSU Theater Department is producing Bill Cain’s play “9 Circles,” a play that poses difficult and intense themes for audiences to consider.
“9 Circles” depicts soldier Daniel Reeves as he undergoes his military discharge and subsequent trial for the rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl during the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
This play is based on actual events concerning soldier Steven Dale Green, who was involved and eventually convicted for the gang-rape and killing of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the killing of several of her family members. Green was honorably discharged from the Army after being diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder before these events came to light.
WSU student Cory Thompson plays the lead. “I think it’s a very important story to be told because it is a true story,” he said. In preparation for this role, Thompson said that he learned about how rough Green’s life had been, as well as how intense antisocial personality disorder can be and the disregard for human life that people with this disorder can exhibit.
“I think that if people see what pushed him to do these bad things, maybe they’ll rethink some things in their own life,” he said.
Student and actor Kaitlyn Hipwell said that as the play progresses, different characters attempt to get inside Reeves’ head, trying to determine what he was thinking when he committed the atrocities.
“The different characters give different perspectives about the situation,” Hipwell said. “You wonder if he [Reeves] needs to pay or if the government needs to assess the types of men that they employ at such young ages and different mental stages.”
Hipwell said that this more complete view of the incident has helped her to understand people’s actions better.
Christian Johnston, an actor who plays several roles in the show, said that he thinks the play does really well at presenting different sides of Reeves’ experiences so that the audience can reflect on why Reeves committed the crimes. “I feel that the play does a really good job at posing questions instead of being didactic and teaching at the audience,” he said.
Another actor in the show who plays multiple characters, Flo Bravo, spoke about the script and design of the play as being “written in a beautiful, simple and very powerful way.” She said that the minimalist writing and set design allow for audiences to relate to and invest in the characters, primarily Reeves, thus contributing to critical thought about the difficult issues presented.
“9 Circles” parallels Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Divine Comedy, the first part of which, “Inferno,” describes a journey through the 9 circles of hell. The minimal set aptly fits this theme.
The majority of the stage is taken up by a grey circular platform with 9 lighter grey circles painted around the edge. Throughout the play, Reeves paces along these circles as he falls further into his own perdition.
“Theater has the responsibility to hold a mirror to society, and that’s what I like to do,” said Director Tracy Callahan. She said that theater and universities both have the responsibility to make people think and to create venues for that to happen.
“Instead of putting blinders on,” Callahan said, “It’s important for people to come to this show and think—even if they don’t agree.”
Bravo expressed a similar idea. “It’s very relevant, and I think audiences can come and take part in the story. It’s one of those things that starts a dialogue.”
“9 Circles” runs Nov. 13 & 14; 17-21 in the Val A. Browning Center’s Eccles Theater. Ticket prices are $12 or $10 for students, and Nov. 17 is WSU Student Night, which allows students free admission with a valid Wildcard. American Sign Language interpretation will be provided on Nov. 14. There will be a post-show panel discussion on Nov. 18.