R-S Theatrics’ “9 Circles” Shows How War Is Hell…And Then Some

Michael Scott Rash as Private Reeves in R-S Theatrics production of “9 Circles.”

Powerful acting tells a powerful story as R-S Theatrics moves into their new home at the Black Cat Theatre and bowls us over. “9 Circles” is based on the classic Dante’s “Inferno” section from his “Divine Comedy” and his vision of the nine circles of hell. It teams up nicely with that other classic- the phrase, “War Is Hell.” Here we find an American soldier returning from Iraq and his own personal hell during a post-war inquisition.

Danny Reeves is far from perfect. He was in an out of jail before maneuvering himself into the Army and being sent overseas. While there, he led an unauthorized siege on a family that led to their death, the brutal rape of their 14-year old daughter and then setting the daughter on fire. As the play opens, we see his “honorable discharge” from the Army far short of his scheduled departure. What follows is a series of events including a preliminary discussion on strategy for his military trial, psychiatric evaluations, a visit with a preacher and a criminal trial. It all leads him down a pre-destined path to disaster as he goes through a series of emotions that are worthy of Dante’s trip through Hades where his only “guide” is, not Virgil, but himself and his conscience.

Michael Scott Rash and Michelle Hand in “9 Circles” as presented by R-S Theatrics.

Newcomer Michael Scott Rash gives one of the most anguished and powerful performances we’ve seen in some time. Perfectly timed, his actions and reactions hit the mark in every scene. His final monologue is nothing short of perfection as he makes the despicable character of Private Reeves sympathetic. Every war has these misfits and, although the real heroes outweigh them, they play an integral part in making everything that makes war wrong even more unbearable to accept.

Michelle Hand is outstanding as well in multiple roles including an Army psychiatrist and a civilian prosecutor. B. Weller also shines in several roles that include a wonderful turn as the preacher who is fascinated as well as wary of this near maniacal soldier of misfortune. Rounding out the cast is John Wolbers who manages to give us two distinct characters as both a military and civilian lawyer. Solidified by the rock that is Michael Scott Rash, the acting ensemble gives us a memorable journey into this spiraling world of oxymorons (a recurring theme in the play) like “military justice” and the inner turmoil that brings a time bomb like Private Reeves into a situation that can destroy innocent civilians.

A menacing Michael Scott Rash confronts B. Weller as a preacher in the R-S Theatrics production of Bill Cain’s “9 Circles.”

Director GP Hunsaker has brought this story to stunning life and, for good measure, also designed and built a multi-functional set that brings the nine circles full circle. Playwright Bill Cain has given us an intriguing plot that serves up many issues as the action unfolds and is bound to prompt serious after-theatre discussion.

Also on the design team is David Hahn who brings us a stunning lighting design and the solid costumes of Cat Baelish while Mark Kelley’s sound design adds the proper mood to the proceedings. All in all, it’s a well-rounded production that brings total satisfaction to the audience. Obviously not recommended for a younger crowd, but it’s a thought-provoking piece for any serious theatre-goer.

Catch “9 Circles” at R-S Theatrics at the Black Cat Theatre through June 10th. Call 314-968-8070 for tickets or more information.

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