Last of the Boys – But Not Least
A REVIEW BY ACHILLES FEELS
Once again the quaint little space of Fells Point Corner Theatre was simultaneously welcoming and diverse. The little old lady (in the BEST of ways) at the concessions stand offered me a glass of wine, after I helped her open the bottle, and Andrew Porter (the new “young gun” in residence on the board) smiled and told me he was sure he had my ticket ready for me this go-round. Inside joke.
I was not sure what to expect with Steven Dietz’s Last of The Boys but it sure wasn’t what I got. The show is two hours of, really, well…nothing. Not much happens in this two hour exposition of five drama-filled characters. I hate saying it, because it sounds unjust, but to be honest I find this style unrewarding and boring. Ugh, Christ, that seems so harsh especially because I know so many people worked so hard to pull off this performance. Believe me, though, even though it’s not necessarily my thing, I did not have a bad night at the theater. Please, read on, won’t you?
Boys, plot-wise, is about, two late middle-aged men (but boys they ain’t) who served together in some unclear capacity during the Vietnam war. Ben (Mark Squirek) living in a remote trailer in the California desert, is visited by his old vet buddy, Jeeter (Tony Colavito). They trip-the-light-fantastic on the past for a while, until Jeeter mentions that he was recently at Ben’s father’s funeral. Ben decided not to go, as they didn’t exactly get on like a house on fire. Jetter has a cling-on girlfriend named Salyer (Casey Dutt), a strange punk-rock hippy girl who, as we learn, has a skin-deep secret. Salyer’s mother Lorraine (Katherine Lyons) also pops around in the strangest of ways, but, all in all, it’s more gum flapping than plot happening, you know? Also, get this, there’s this ghosty-type character played by Adam Zoellner who flits on and off the set during flashback-like scenes when Ben reminisces (or has nightmares) about his long-term commitment to Vietnam. We don’t really know who this person is, but Young Soldier appears to represent the diverse struggles vet Ben is consistently going through. Nobody else can see Young Solider, until they do and well, I’m not giving that twist away. So, okay, I didn’t dig the play itself. I couldn’t get into the topic, I don’t really have any connection to Vietnam or the people who were particularly affected by the current events of the time. Maybe that makes me shallow and easily distrac – oh, look, a shiny thing. But! But. That’s not to say I didn’t think it was terrific theater.
Fells Point Corner Theatre kicked this show’s ass. The acting by all five cast members was truly fantastic. I enjoyed Mark Squirek’s Ben; he played a slightly touched-in-the-head vet, honestly and with compassion. Tony Colavito’s Jetter was funny -, not stupid, poignant, and he played to the time period well. They both look the part and act the shit out of what story there is. Casey Dutt barges on the stage as the annoying and invasive female presence at first, but then we begin to feel the tenderness that has been chiseled (and abused) away from this dear soul. Katherine Lyons plays the kind of mother we all wish for, then un-wish for the moment we realize what we really got in the divorce. She’s cool, but maternal enough to still have breasts. Adam Zoellner plays the Young Soldier in perfect cadence and attention. His attitude breaks when it needs too, then returns to steely calm at the drop of a salute. Well done, well done. Direction by Barry Feinstein kept the show fully on it’s feet with a visual picture that was pleasant to watch. I only challenge him to try to capture audience members who may have difficulty relating to the subject matter by quickening the pace where things stagnate and work the comic timing to feel a bit more natural.
The design team kicked some booty too! Set by Bush Greenbeck was perfect. The very full stage-picture conveyed desolate, a difficult thing to do in such a small and confined space. The color pallet was cohesive and the floor treatment was LUSH baby! LUSH! Charles Danforth III, who I’ve written about before, used color well, played with shadow and contrast a bit more than he normally does, and lent nice shape to the show (still needs a refresher course on how to properly program a gel scroller, though). No costume designer noted, but the the clothes worked pretty well, so cheers whoever tackled that detail. Sound effects by Harry Bechkes fit the story, but I wish they sounded less tin-can-ey and a bit more realistic. I want to be shaken up a bit when i hear a gunshot, even if it is in a dream-like world.
Running at Fells Point Corner Theatre until June 7th
Email Achilles Feels at firstname.lastname@example.org
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