Tuesday, November 18, 2008


photo: Joan Marcus

David Rabe's excellent 1976 play, in which Vietnam-era soldiers just out of Basic Training are thrown into intense, escalating social conflict with each other while holed up in their barracks, seems to have been revived for, and directed with a focus on, its gays-in-the-military content. On that score, the production is engaging as a time-capsule that invites contemplation about what has and has not changed. Unfortunately the play's other themes are shortchanged, which drains the production of dramatic tension. Two of the actors seem to have been misdirected: Ato Essandoh disastrously so as Carlyle - the character comes off as a psycho the minute he bounds through the door, so the audience isn't forced to sit with the discomforting suspicion that racial stereotyping is behind the hostility he gets from most of the other guys. Brad Fleischer, as Billy, is asked to play so unimpeachably straight that there's no sexual tension with Richie, whose longing for him now looks masochistic. Still, it's great to hear Rabe's dialogue again, and two of the performances - by Hale Appelman and J.D. Williams - are exactly right.

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