9 Circles

According to most sources, it was William Tecumseh Sherman who coined the phrase, "War is hell," but in Bill Cain's award-winning 9 Circles, now running at Curious Theatre, the thinly veiled metaphor is literally true, with the story of one of the most gruesome atrocities of the war in Iraq mapped to the titular circles of Dante' Divine Comedy, which ends, of course, with the Inferno.

(Left to right) Michael McNeill and Sean Scrutchins
(L to R) Michael McNeill and Sean Scrutchins
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Daniel E. Reeves is a grunt. His job is to kill. His recruiting officer knew full well that Daniel was anti-social and that he had been convicted of numerous crimes and was a heavy drug user, but there were conscription quotas to be made, and the unpopularity of the war made it necessary to find cannon fodder who were desperate and/or bloodthirsty.

In the case of Reeves, he was both, and, after years of propaganda and the demonization of "the enemy," neither the army nor their psychiatrist was able to help Daniel distinguish between combatants and civilians. But when it came time to determine the culpability for Daniel's crimes, no one was willing to take responsibility, other than Daniel himself.

Sean Scrutchins and Karen Slack
Sean Scrutchins and Karen Slack
Photo: Michael Ensminger
In his professional acting debut, Sean Scrutchins simply astounds as Reeves, a bundle of contradictions that envelop rage, patriotism, hate, street smarts, and honesty. What Scrutchins shows us in Reeves is a monster of our own creation. We have permitted ourselves to be manipulated by a small group of people who profit through war, disease, and ignorance, just as Dickens described in A Christmas Carol. Reeves is one of those children clinging to the Ghost of Christmas Present, who explains to Scrooge and us, that it is up to us to prevent these children from being our future. Yet, we remain in denial over our complicity in the atrocities that occur on a daily basis in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the world, wherever we create a premise to send our troops and steal other people's resources.

(Left to right) Sean Scrutchins and Erik Sandvold
(L to R) Sean Scrutchins
and Erik Sandvold
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Scrutchins is supported by an impressive series of characterizations from the ensemble of Erik Sandvold, Karen Slack, and Michael McNeill, who represent a revolving door of lawyers, shrinks, pastors, officers, and executioners, who are in denial just as we are.

Director Christy Montour-Larson has really shaped a gem here. Scenic designer Guy Wright's simple, circular set echoes Dante's approach to life and afterlife.

Curious Theatre Company's 9 Circles runs through February 18th at Curious Theatre. 303-623-0524,, or at the Curious Theatre Company box office at 1080 Acoma in Denver.

Bob Bows


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