In Irwin Shaw’s 1935 expressionistic antiwar play, six soldiers, killed in combat in an unspecified war, stand up and refuse to be buried. At a time when the U.S. is still reeling from the effects of its wars in Vietnam and Iraq, Shaw’s play possesses a raw power, but it never lets us forget that it’s delivering a message. For the government, the recalcitrant corpses are first and foremost a public relations and morale problem. Soon, however, the dead men’s womenfolk are brought in to persuade them to lie down and submit to burial. In a massive but predictable set piece, each of the soldiers (Andrew Wheeler, John Pick, Brandon Hanson, Colin Golden, Jesse Luken and Brian Allman) is confronted with a wife, sister, girlfriend or mother, begging him to stop bucking the system. In a telling moment, one tough wife (Donna Jo Thorndale) asks her husband why he waited till he was dead to stand up and fight back. Matthew Huffman’s somber production is terrific, and so is his cast. The Depression-Era detail offers additional interest, but the piece remains more a potently vivid poster than a play.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Aug. 16. Continues through Sept. 27, 2008

LA Weekly