Gay Iraq War Vet Brings One-Man Show to New York

Jeff Key's The Eyes of Babylon: One Marine's Journey explores what it was like to serve in the Iraq War under Don't Ask Don't Tell.

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After earning pages-full of critical acclaim, Jeff Key's one-man Iraq War play is making its New York City debut with a limited run at the prestigious 59E59 Theaters. The Eyes of Babylon includes "filthy language, adult themes, and a Marine in his boxer shorts."  But here's what it isn't: war porn.

Based on the playwright's Iraq War journals, The Eyes of Babylon chronicles Key's journey as a gay man who, driven by patriotism, enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 34 -- just one year before 9-11 -- served in Iraq, and went on to create the non-profit Mehadi Foundation which uses writing workshops and other creative activities to help Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from PTSD.  He's taken the play to a number of cities. Joan Baez said she was "drawn into it, disarmed, and stilled to a state of positive shock and awe," while the Salt Lake City Weekly said it was "as if Jack Kerouac went to war."

Taking a page from the counterculture heroes of the past, Key isn't shy about expressing his opinion on his generation's most controversial war. "Bought all these books on the Taliban," he recounts.  "Know your enemy, they always say. And then the strangest thing happened: One night while I was asleep, somebody switched the enemy."

It doesn't come down to politics in the end, though, but to being true to yourself, wherever that takes you. "There are those who will not call me brother now that they know who I really am," Key reports. "I'd still stand between them and a bullet. I'm a United States Marine. I will die a Marine."

Before he does, he means to take his message to as many people as he can, and the upcoming Off Broadway run at 59E59 is a major milestone along that journey.

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Jon Sobel is a freelance writer, web editor, theater and music critic, marketing writer, and musician. His newest project is the blog Park Odyssey, where he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City - over a thousand of them.

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