As I watched the New Rep's production of the WWII-era drama Mister Roberts last night (review to follow), I wondered why, exactly, we seem to be in a slight resurgence of 40's nostalgia. Right now the Stoneham Theatre has actually programmed The Good War, "a musical collage of World War II" against Roberts (Henry Fonda's publicity for the film, at left), which was itself something of a nostalgic (if poignant) look back at the war when it opened in 1948. Later in its season (which has been dubbed "American Stories") the Huntington will be mounting Arthur Miller's 1947 drama All My Sons, which confronts the aftermath of moral failure during WWII. And I don't think it's a stretch to point out that even Quentin Tarantino has gotten into the game by rewriting the history of "the good war" in the repellent Inglourious Basterds.
Of course it's hard to ignore the fact that we've basically been at war in the Middle East now for over six years (longer than World War II). It's also worth noting that while Inglourious Basterds has been doing boffo at the box office, movies like The Hurt Locker, which is set during our current Middle East conflict, have struggled to find a popular audience.
So one wonders precisely what kind of projection is actually going on down at the moviehouse - or on our local stages. Perhaps it's natural that, given the questionable ethics of our current conflicts, we should turn to "the good war" for our latest round of war stories. But it's worth wondering when (or if) our culture will actually begin to engage with the present day.