Special Forces

The Iraq war is the setting for ... high camp?

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Through July 1 at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (between Capp and Van Ness), S.F. Tickets are $15-25; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org.

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From the outset it appears Special Forces wants to be taken seriously as a gritty modern-day war drama about a group of soldiers on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. It's set in Kuwait City in the middle of Operation Iraqi Freedom and there are plenty of guns, machismo shouting, and war fatigues. But at the center of all this is a singing, drinking, and frolicking cross-dressing cabaret singer named Dinah Blue (Matthew Martin), who works in a gay bar near the action. Theatre Rhinoceros' artistic director John Fisher serves as writer, director, and actor and insists this play is not about politics and opinions even though it touches on many of the military hot-button issues — "don't ask, don't tell," civilian killings, President Bush. Perhaps in an attempt to avoid cliché, Fisher casts a waifish woman (Helen Sage Howard) as the evil soldier who cuts off children's private parts and gives the hardened colonel (Fisher) a soft spot for trannies, which pushes this play well past credible believability. When Ms. Blue infiltrates the army base with top-secret documents and then dons a burka to rescue her man from the clutches of the enemy, Special Forces unintentionally turns into high camp.

 
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