March On, Dream Normal

Well served by its intimate venue, Jeanette Scherrer’s slice-of-life drama communicates the torments of a soldier newly returned from Iraq. Home in St. Louis with his parents — played with persuasive nuance by Jack Kandel and Marie Del Marco — Jim (Brett Nichols) suffers horrible recurring nightmares in which he recalls how his former sergeant brutally commanded him to run down a child in the road. Insane with remorse, he seeks help through the VA, where an overscheduled and desensitized military doctor (Skip Pipo) prescribes diazepam and sends him on his way. Jim’s mental anguish mounts, leading to an altercation in a bar that costs him the firefighting job he desperately desires. Co-directed at an unhurried pace by Scherrer and Patty Ramsey, the play traipses familiar territory but proves incisive in the end. True to life, it has no pat finale. Several family-at-home scenes drag but — in this tiny theater, where the audience and playing areas overlap — that same slowness also contributes to a sense of heightened realism. As Jim’s pregnant sister-in-law, who romanticizes his unassuming machismo, the perky Shannon Nelson is lively and appealing. A kink in this capable ensemble comes from the miscasting of one actor. Set designer David Nett makes excellent use of a small space. Costumes (Nelson), props/set dressings (James Paul Xavier) and sound (Ryan Poulson) also add colorful ambiance. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: May 24. Continues through June 22, 2008