‘It’s All Good’: Art imitates life imitates war

By Lenny Pollack
The Real Deal

The chronicle of a year-long experimental theater project by a ragtag group of college-town playwrights, poets and people squatting comfortably on the Bohemian fringe, “It’s All Good” is as confusing as it is intriguing: It’s easy to like these guys, who believe their play about post 9-11 America is making a serious statement, even though none of them seem to know just what that statement is. Or what it all really means.

The facts are these: Gainesville, Florida playwrights Timothy “Shamrock” McShane and Jessica Arnold wrote “America’s New War Strikes Back” as a response to TV news’ blind acceptance of, and jingoistic approach to, George W. Bush’s declaration of war on terrorists after the World Trade Center attacks.

  “It’s All Good” traces the evolution of the play, from staged readings to workshops to rehearsals that literally took place on streetcorners.

  Along the way, it grew, and what began as a series of simple dialogues in McShane’s notebook became physical comedy, musical satire and dark drama, with an ever-changing cast fine-tuning an ever-changing script.

  “It was a Frankenstein monster with a life of its own, that we couldn’t control,” says one actor in the film. “And we didn’t really care to.”

  Indeed, the freewheeling, exhilarating rush of creative liberty is what comes across loud and clear in this film’s talking-head interviews with the principals: Every day meant trying something new, making the project better, more fun, and ideally, more profound.

  Ironically, that’s what killed it. “America’s New War Strikes Back” ended on Sept. 11, 2002, as the troupe did its thing in front of a boozy crowd of fraternity brothers in a downtown Gainesville nightclub.

  The ‘bros took offense at McShane and Arnold’s irreverent dialogue, and the play’s characterizations of Jesus, Satan and various governmental boobs, and decided the whole thing was un-American.

  The company was booed off the stage, and freedom of speech – something the play, with its combination of apolitical cynicism, hard-hearted liberalism and poolroom wit, had championed – took a hit as direct as the Twin Towers had on that same terrible day one year earlier.

  In the end, of course, that’s what it all really means: Even in theater, where dreams, imagination and fantasy collide, reality never sleeps.

“It’s All Good” is a fascinating look at the yin, the yang and the space between.