PVT. Wars (September 13-30, 2007)

Three soldiers prepare to go home in ‘Pvt. Wars’

by Matt Nagle
Originally published in The Tacoma Weekly

Lakewood Playhouse has a very timely production called “Pvt. Wars” coming to its stage this month – timely in that at the play’s heart are three actors who play veterans of the war in Iraq recuperating in an Army hospital. Once the soldiers are well, they get to go home, and from that source sprouts a humorous and honest exchange of dialog among the men, bittersweet and peppered with both laughs and moments of brotherly compassion.

“The show is absolutely fantastic,” remarked director Robert McConkey. “A lot of people who hear about it right away assume it’s a drama, but it’s not, it’s a comedy. It’s less about the war itself and more about the interaction of the three men and how they’re dealing with things that happened to them and how they’re going to cope with the world outside that’s waiting for them.”

Scott C. Brown plays the soldier known as Gately. “It’s a good comedy and something worth doing,” Brown said of “Pvt. Wars.” Brown has acted in past Lakewood Playhouse productions including “Romeo and Juliet” and “Amadeus,” for which he received considerable praise. He will appear in Lakewood Playhouse’s production of “Holes” beginning Oct. 19.

Gately’s comrades are Silvio (Jayln Green) and Natwick (Gabe Hacker). “It’s their journey, if you will, of them going home,” Brown commented. He described “Pvt. Wars” as a “broad comedy” and a “buddy play,” as it shows men in the crisis of wartime dealing with their issues by leaning on each other in the ways men do. He said the play is neither pro-war nor anti-war, but that it “just happens to be about three guys in the hospital. The story is pretty universal.”

As the audience watches the three G.I.s while away their time in the recreation room of the Army hospital, the men’s personalities begin to slowly emerge. Gately is “a simpleminded Southerner,” as McConkey described him, who fiddles compulsively with an old broken radio.

Silvio is a streetwise, big-city type who also happens to be addicted to flashing because he wants to show everyone how his sex organs have suffered irreparable battle damage. “He’s kind of a jerk and always on a power trip,” McConkey said.

Natwick is a snooty rich kid from Long Island who never should have joined the Army but did so to escape his family and the expectations that come with wealth.

Told in brief blackout scenes, the story unfolds as the men tease, torment, entertain and exasperate each other using laughter to deal with the strange reality that awaits them in the civilian world. While most plays are made up of continuous scenes within an act, Brown said in “Pvt. Wars” the lights will go up and then go down on 17 scenes set up in two acts. “They’re basically snippets of life, if you will,” he commented. “It’s a very interesting theatrical tactic to use for time change and to introduce more time change.”

Playwright James McClure’s original characters in “Pvt. Wars” were three veterans returning from the Vietnam War, so slight tweaking had to be done to bring the play up to date. “We had to update some movie references from those of the ’50s, the Tet Offensive was changed to Baghdad and we even threw in a Geico caveman commercial and other recent gems the audience will catch,” Brown said.