by Nancy Holley
Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.
Steven Dietz’ Last of the Boys flows seamlessly between reality and illusion as his characters attempt to control their lives. In a 48-hour snapshot, Dietz’ skillfully depicts the comfort and strain of relationships between Vietnam vets (Ben and Jeeter); mother and daughter (Lorraine and Salyer); and lovers (Salyer and Jeeter).
Relationships are built on memories, and memories are tricky. Some are here one minute gone the next. Others never fade, frequently causing us to churn them over and over and over. Last of the Boys explores the pain and anguish memories can inflict.
Ben is haunted by a change of heart that threatens to make his service in Vietnam meaningless. Salyer yearns for the father she never knew. After 30 plus years, Lorraine still feels deserted by a young husband who was drafted, and Jeeter worships the music of the 1960s, “recorded on vinyl.” Through it all, the Young Soldier revisits the escalation of the “tactical exercise” that was Vietnam.
Last of the Boys brings together veterans of the Ice House stage as well as newcomers. Veteran actors Aaron Johnson and Karl Schoettler portray Jeeter and Ben, Vietnam buddies. They know everything the other has been through and thus, have the capacity to destroy.
Johnson loves Jeeter and his quests. He sees Jeeter as 25 forever. On the serious side, “Jeeter understands the rift between Ben and his father, maybe better than Ben, resulting in tensions in their relationship. He was hoping for reconciliation at the funeral of Ben’s father, but Ben did not appear.”
Ben enlisted rather than being drafted, perhaps based on his father’s respect for Robert McNamara and their association at Ford Motor Company. When the war escalated, and there appeared to be no plan, Ben became conflicted. Schoettler notes, “Ben has deep ghosts that he tries to process through channeling McNamara. Ben has to believe that McNamara always had a plan and that his father’s change of heart was wrong. Otherwise, what was the point?”
Katie Welch returns to the Ice House stage in the role of Salyer. One of her initial questions was, “What is the significance of The Stones?” She’s too young to know that for many The Rolling Stones were the 1960s! Welch believes that Salyer has a “full on Father Complex. She was not told that her father was drafted. She found it out when she went to The Wall.”
Lorraine felt so abandoned by the drafting of her young husband that she never found the words to tell Salyer about her father. “When Lorraine said she loved him and wanted to spend her life with him and the fog didn’t lift; it was as open as she got,” comments Diana Carson-Walker. Carson-Walker, a new comer to the Ice House, finds Lorraine a challenging character, very different from her own soft-spoken demeanor.
The Young Soldier (Ethan de Malignon), handsome in his uniform and unable to communicate with his wife and child, can only hope that Salyer and Lorraine will find reconciliation and closure through their experience of him.
Co-directors Irene Morse and Nancy Holley are very excited about the production and their talented cast. “It has been wonderful watching their characters develop.”
On Sunday May 18 after the matinee, “Back Stage at the Ice House” will be hosted by Sharon DeCoux, a veteran Visalia Player. Audience members will have an opportunity for a behind the scenes look at the show and the opportunity to ask questions and interact with cast/crew.
Last of the Boys opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 9, 2014 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 5/9, 5/10, 5/16, 5/17, 5/23, and 5/24 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 5/11, 5/18, and 5/25. NOTE: The show contains adult language and the sounds of war. Last of the Boys is performed without an intermission.
For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.
Check out more local theatre reviews this week right here in KRL & even more theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!
To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLLOB in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website Ticketing information page.