Review: Pvt. WARS

by Lynn on February 22, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At 1389 Dundas Street West of Dovercourt. Written by James McLure. Directed by Amos Crawley. Starring: Benjamin Blais, Joe Dinicol, David Reale.

Presented by Hinson’s Radio co-op and Redone Theatre Collective.

Plays at 1389 Dundas Street W. until February 24.

The good folks at Redone Theatre Collective and Hinson’s Radio co-op have the guts of bandits. A serious medical emergency on their opening day prevented them from performing Pvt. WARS in the space for which it was intended. They needed to find another venue quickly. They did find another space a week later and the show went on but they were unable to bring their lighting equipment or the set. Instead they asked us to imagine what the set and lights would have looked like—they had pictures of it on a wall of the new space.

No worries. A company with such huge heart and tenacity doesn’t need a ‘proper’ set or lights. They just need an audience willing to imagine and believe.

I love Redone Theatre Collective. They take non-traditional spaces and produce contemporary and original plays in them. The budget is a shoestring. The imagination that goes into pulling off their productions is priceless.

For <strong>Pvt. WARS we are in a hospital. I’m assuming the hospital caters to men who are in the military and have been wounded in action, either physically or mentally, or both. They are suffering their own private wars (hence he clever title) in dealing with the world at large and their own problems in particular.

They all wear robes over seat pants or underwear. Gately is a tenacious, patient man who keeps busy by fixing a broken radio for one of his friends in the hospital. He is told the folly of this by another patient because the man to whom Gately will give the radio has no arms or legs, and sadly has died the night before. No matter, Gately is determined to fix the radio. He is told repeatedly that he can leave the hospital when he wants to but he refuses. Perhaps he is afraid of the outside world and finds comfort in the hospital.

Natwick is another patient. He is fastidious; well off—he alludes to the fact he comes from money and his mother had big plans for him. All of them failed. He is educated—he reads the New York Times and the New Yorker Magazine. But the knowledge that he has not turned out as expected grinds down on him.

Finally Silvio enters. He is a cocky, swaggering macho man who flashes the nurses every time he can. He was physically wounded in some battle or other and that has affected him emotionally and psychologically. Gately calls him psychotic. Silvio is a loose canon waiting to do serious damage. He will get out of the hospital as long as someone will take responsibility for taking care of him. The other two men give him a wide berth, although Gately seems to be the best at handling him.

James McLure has written an interesting play about the damage wars cause on men who fight in them. He has also written full bodied characters with many layers and sides to them. The focus of the play sometimes slides, but it is interesting enough to keep our interest.

The cast is totally committed and absolutely compelling. The audience surrounds the playing space so proximity is extremely close. Their attention of each actor to each other never wavers. As Gately, Benjamin Blais is easy-going, determined, confident except when it wavers and he is not sure he can cope on his own. It’s a performance full of charm, tenacity and sadness.

As Natwick, Joe Dinicol is fastidious in his carefully tied rich-looking dressing gown. He looks every inch the preppy son of money. For all his confidence when dealing with people whom he feels are inferior to him, he does have that tinge of failure, and ‘not good enough’ about him.

Finally as Silvio, David Reale is a quick moving, tight-jawed, fist-clenched bully. He is always looking for a fight and is dangerous. He hones in on the person he thinks is weak and keeps at him. For a laugh he put crazy glue on Natwick’s cup. Natwick put his hand around it and for most of the play, it stuck. Natwick kept his hand and cup in his robe pocket.

Director Amos Crawley keeps the action quick paced and even dangerous. The tension between the men is beautifully established and sustained.

Redone Theatre Company can take adversity and with ingenuity and tenacity can keep the show going. They, and Pvt. WARS deserve out attention.

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