When considering director Leon Shanglebee’s powerful revival of the famous 1980 Odyssey Theater Ensemble play conceived by John DiFusco, one is tempted to draw parallels between the play’s Vietnam War setting and our own generation’s ill-advised war of American adventurism. Yet, such comparisons are ultimately misleading, for Shanglebee, in his angry, adrenaline-steeped production, is less interested in politics than in crafting kaleidoscopic portraits of a group of men under unbearably adverse circumstances. DiFusco’s drama can be called an impressionistic tragedy: In a series of scattershot vignettes, it tells the story of a group of young men, shipped off to Vietnam as cannon fodder. These include young Dinky Dau (Rommel Jamison), who bides his time between missions playing pointless card games and shooting up heroin, and intellectual soldier Professor (Christian Levatino), whose friendship with the platoon medic (Brian Barth) ends with an unexpected death. Shanglebee’s taut and feverish staging elegantly contrasts the boredom of squalid camp life with the horrendous terror that comes with abruptly facing death. With an ensemble of performers who are uncommonly believable playing young soldiers, the stage all but teems with testosterone and aggression. Jamison is particularly striking — his Dinky Dau’s boisterous good humor comes across as being just a hairsbreadth from hysteria — and moving turns are also offered by Levatino’s sensitive Professor and by James Thomas Gilbert’s Brooklyn-accented platoon rookie, Baby San.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: Feb. 29. Continues through April 20, 2008
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