Monday, May 30, 2011

Last of the Boys, Third Rail - Grade B

by Steven Dietz
Directed by Slayden Scott Yarbough

Ben   .....   Damon Kupper
Jeeter   .....   Michael O'Connell
Slayer   .....   Laura Faye Smith
Lorraine   .....   Valerie Stevens
The Young Soldier   .....   Justin Mark

sez says:  there is a lot of 're-viewing' (ie looking again at) the Viet Nam War and its aftermath in our literature and this is a middle-of-the-road example of that genre.  In this case we learn that 'The Father' turned against the war while his son was a soldier who, even after the war is over, is still trying to hold Robert McNamara up as an example of a good American.  So this story switches the generations roles. Most Viet Nam stories have the youth against the war.  In any case, to tell this story it might be important to know more about this particular war--and why it divided generations -- indeed divided the nation / the way it did...and that seems to be lacking here.  First clue to that is in the Playbill Glossary: The Viet Cong are defined as "South Vietnamese guerrillas fighting in opposition to the Republic"   WHAT??? hum .. OK so what about the play..

First the Acting:
Valerie Stevens should get the Drammy this year for her role as Lorraine--the girl who got pregnant and married a boy-soldier who died in Viet Nam leaving her a single mother who has now grown old and ironic --and now she is not very successfully trying to keep her now grown daughter out of harms way.  What a talent Stevens is proving to be.  And the play is worth seeing just to see her performance.

Michael O'Connell, on the other hand, did not fulfill the needs of the special mix his character required, that is of a counter culture academic / Vietnam Vet / Lonely Womanizer.   These men, in real life, are both damaged and arrogant and O'Connell never got into that groove.

Smith & Kupper were fine--but Mark Justin should have been given a starched costume. No soldier at the time would be in an ill fitting, saggy uniform. Soldiers were stiff -- starched --spit-shined shoes --, jar head hair cuts -- those were the symbols of the army/ and the war, and the culture that backed the war and which  stood in opposition/contrast to the anti-war counter-culture of long haired hippies.

So again we are back to some fundamental lack of knowledge of the era and the weaknesses that permeated the play are not the plays fault..  I fear it was the Direction that didn't understand the details of how to portray these people who were caught in the grips of this most agonizing bit of our history.

MJC SAYS:  no comment

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