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"The Good War": An Oral History of World War II 

Studs Terkel's Pulitzer-winning "The Good War": An Oral History of World War II fought its own war: Terkel's firsthand witnesses testified to the ugly side of a noble struggle--internment camps, homophobia and racism in the trenches, war profiteering, rejection of the disfigured wounded, and American propagandizing. Like any war, this one undermined the very principles it was fought for. But because it was made to justify later conflicts (more than 250 U.S. interventions since 1945), Terkel sought to demythologize its supposed purity of heart. In 1987 Michael Hildebrand and Anita Greenberg adapted the book into a groundbreaking musical energized by period songs that carried new meaning (especially a Japanese lullaby that reminds a Hiroshima victim of her incinerated mother). It will be presented next weekend at the Chicago Historical Society in a kinetic new Prologue Theatre staging by Kevin Theis, a revival worthy of its predecessors. Charles Glenn delivers harrowing testimony about black soldiers who were murdered for daring to use the white PX, then offers a haunting rendition of Fats Waller's "What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue?" Eric Leonard is especially moving as "Ted Allenby," a pseudonym for the late actor and activist George S. Buse, who was kicked out of the navy for being gay. Imagining a truer patriotism, the musical's bittersweet songs and testimony convey a you-are-there immediacy. Chicago Historical Society, Arthur Rubloff Auditorium, 1601 N. Clark, Chicago, 312-642-4600, ext. 344. Opens Thursday, May 4, 7:30 PM. Through May 7: Friday-Saturday, 7:30 PM; Sunday, 3 and 7:30 PM. $18. --Lawrence Bommer

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Waldemar Richart.

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