Operation First Casualty is political theater by returned Iraq War veterans re-enacting some of their daily experiences back in Baghdad: taking sniper fire, rounding up suspected enemy sympathizers, containing a riot. Personally I happen to support the Iraq Veterans Against the War, but as this is not a political blog, I am including the link because it is interesting to see what they are trying to do theatrically, and what their audience's reaction is.
I very rarely see theater that moves me. Every now and then someone puts on Shakespeare and manages to get the actors to understand what they're saying, and that always works. But too often when I psych myself up to see new theater, it lacks the essential magic of theater. It's just a story badly told, often without much of a plot. Since the invention of the recorded moving image, I think, theater needs to justify itself.
I think it does so two ways, both of which have to do with the actors actually being there in the spot. Theater can more convincingly have something take place "nowhere." Arthur Miller's AFTER THE FALL, about his relationship with Marilyn Monroe, takes place in his memory, and in his home during his marriage, and various other places, all of which are the stage. In film you'd have to shoot the actual places, which would have a solidity his memories don't have on stage.
In theater, it also matters where you stage it. In film, it does not much matter where the screen is set up. A screen in Chicoutimi isn't much different from a screen in Westwood. But in theater, staging a patrol taking sniper fire in the streets of New York is not at all the same thing as doing it in a safe theater environment, or in Kansas City. The actors really are there in the flesh, right next to the audience. Nothing is separating them but a convention.
I continue to hope that one day I'll figure out how to put the magic of theater on the page, and then I'll write a play. For the moment, all I can do is watch.