The most profound and powerful thing about Utah playwright Kathleen Cahill's "Harbur Gate," making its world premiere at Salt Lake Acting Company, is how deceptively simple it seems. The structure and dialogue of its three interlocked plays couldn't be more straightforward; each one depicts a man and a woman involved in a pared-down, uncluttered situation.
Yet what we get is so much more than what we see. At the same time the plays chronicle gender discrimination and sexual abuse in the military without ever becoming manipulative or preachy they put us in touch with the shattering experience of going to war in Iraq. The plays work on a multitude of levels: natural and supernatural, literal and metaphorical, realistic and surreal, spiritual and visceral. It is like shaking a children's toy box and having a brightly colored dragon burst out.
In the first play, "Orpheus," two Army medics, Chad (Matthew Sincell) and Carey (Natalia Noble), are about to get Purple Hearts for valor in combat. Orpheus, you may remember, is the character from Greek mythology who went to hell and came back. Carey lost her best friend to an IED explosion and is mired in grief and guilt; Noble adeptly juggles her chaotic mix of confusion and despair. Sincell's unabashedly gay Chad "I'm showing the world who I am and where I've been," he announces is flamboyant and funny as he tries to get her to pull herself together with the play's underlying message: "If you just keep looking back, you will never be able to go forward. You've got to go forward; that's what being alive is about."