As part of its Americas Off Broadway series, 59E59 Theater is presenting Jeff Key in "The Eyes of Babylon." I saw yesterday afternoon's performance. The show is running through July 3. It is definitely worth seeing.
Jeff Key served in the U.S. Marines in Iraq during the early months of the war. He is a gay man who enlisted in 2000, determined to comply with the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy so he could serve his country. He kept a journal of his experiences in the Marines. His posting in Iraq was cut short when he needed hernia surgery and was sent back to the states. He decided he was done with hiding his sexuality and "came out" to a superior officer in order to get out of the Marines. Subsequently he gave a broadcast interview to CNN and became one of the famous exemplars of the silliness of the DADT policy. He became acquainted with Yuval Hadadi, a theater person who is a gay Israeli military veteran. Hadadi persuaded him of the importance of telling his story dramatically. Under Hadadi's prodding and guidance, Key elaborated a monologue based on his journals, and that is "The Eyes of Babylon," which has been presented numerous times around the country, won awards and critical commentation, and is receiving its NY premiere in the current production.
Key is a very effective writer, and delivers his lines with sincerity. He is generally a plain-speaking guy, and one suspects he is sugar-coating some of his experiences, but the show makes a big emotional impact, and it feels good — and challenging — to listen to this man tell about his experiences. He certainly puts to shame those who have persisted in defending DADT or tried — for example, House Republicans – to erect new legislative roadblocks to implementation of last years DADT Repeal Act.
This 90 minute monologue is fast-paced, thought-provoking, and entertaining. I hope lots of people will take the time to see it during the balance of its brief New York run. According to Key's website, there is also a television documentary about his experiences which I suspect will get trotted out pretty much every year for Gay Pride month programming on public television stations, so be on the lock-out. His story is worth hearing and seeing.