Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Summer of '42
Hunter Foster's book closely follows its source, Herman Raucher's screenplay and novel about teenage boys discovering sex and life during a wartime summer. As they spend the summer of 1942 on an island off the coast of Maine with their unseen parents, the three New York boys ingenuous Hermie (Ryan Nealy), cocky Oscy (Michael Vitaly Sazonov), and nerdy Benjie (David McLellan) pursue girls close to their own age, but Hermie is more drawn to Dorothy (Nancy Snow), the beautiful wife of an overseas soldier (Will Gartshore).
Rather than having a tightly constructed plot, Summer of '42 is primarily a series of vignettes. The three boys (the self-named "Terrible Trio") spy on women at the beach and gossip about Dorothy; Hermie befriends the lonely older woman (early twenties); the boys go on a movie date with girls they meet; Oscy provides his friends with sex education through a medical textbook; Hermie tries to buy condoms; and matters develop as they will.
To keep the action moving and broaden the focus to the larger scene of the World War II home front, Foster and composer-lyricist David Kirshenbaum have added the clever device of using three beach girls (Katherine Ross Wolfe, Jennifer Timberlake, Meghan Touey) as a Greek chorus, spelling out the show's themes in Andrews Sisters harmonies, and scene-bridging moments of exposition by Walter Winchell (Christopher Bloch). Another theatrical conceit, the framing of the action as an older man's memories, echoes the movie but has little impact onstage.
Under Meredith McDonough's understated direction, Nealy and Sazonov play teenage boys with unforced charm (McLellan has a tougher job with a more caricatured role), and Snow does get to reveal the real person underneath Dorothy's golden exterior. The rest of the cast is just as good; sadly, Gartshore has little opportunity here to reveal his skill as a singing actor, as his character appears in two scenes and has one song before heading off to war.
James Kronzer has designed another set with surprises: what appears to be a two-dimensional exterior of a beachside house offers unexpected depths. Rosemary Pardee's costumes effortlessly conjure up their era.
Round House Theatre