Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Last of the Boys
Playwright and regional theatre favorite Steven Dietz' 2004 play Last of the Boys is currently being presented at none too fragile theater, manages to capture in prose flashbacks, memories, and present situations that mirror our real life experiences.
We have all met people just like Ben, Jeeter, Salyer and Lorraine so it's not difficult to relate to their characters and situation. Add to this the snappy dialog that goes from laugh out loud funny to poignant to tragic to redeeming and you have a "slice of life" play that lets you escape this crazy word for a couple of hours (complete with a fifteen minute intermission).
Ben and Jeeter are pals and have been ever since serving together in Vietnam over four decades ago. Ben lives in a trailer on a Superfund site in central California that he refuses to leave. As he puts it, his neighbors got bought out and he is the last lone resident "so everyone is happy." Jeeter is an adjunct professor at a California University and teaches about the 1960s from an historical perspective. His hobby is traveling around the world to Rolling Stones concerts in order to get close to the stage and show the band a handmade sign that says simply, "JUST STOP" for which he usually ends up getting tossed back to the cheap seats.
The two men are polar opposites of '60s ideology. Jeeter (Paul Floriano*) is the consummate flower child still searching for the all elusive enlightenment in the form of a "vortex." He lives a life of serendipitous pleasure seeking. Ben (Robert Branch) has never left the Vietnam era having taken on the persona of Robert McNamara, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968. It is because of this conflict that their relationship works.
Jeeter has returned from Ben's father's funeral in Michigan (that Ben refused to attend) with new girlfriend Salyer (Rachel Lee Kolis), or Sal, in tow. They met on the road when Sal and her mother Lorraine (Anne McEvoy) were stranded with a flat and no tire iron.
The four lost souls come together at Ben's trailer for a night of drinking and truth seeking as the past is dredged up and closely examined. Ben is once again paid a visit by the mystery "ghost soldier" who is strongly related to Sal and Lorraine (who both see the apparition).
If ever there was a perfect cast brought together, these five are it. Robert Branch as Ben wears his faded persona like a tattered suit as he fights to keep his sanity due to an incident in Vietnam. Paul Floriano as Jeeter is the perfect foil to his partner in crime as the two verbally clash with some of the wittiest dialog ever put on stage. Rachel Lee Kolis is the femme fatale hoping to solve the mystery of her dead father, who wears a tattoo version of a hair shirt. Anne McEvoy as the alcoholic mother gives and takes with the best of them as she searches for an apology for her husband's military death many years before, and Nate Homolka as the ghost soldier brings a military bearing to the role.
Even after all this time, the Vietnam War still stirs the emotions of those who lived through that era. It was a time of active political revolt against an unpopular government. No matter what side you found yourself on, establishment or hippy, it defined an entire generation that carries those scars even to this day. This show is excellent viewing as well as a great way to begin a healing dialog between current fractured generations.
The none too fragile production of Last of the Boys will be on stage through September 30, 2017. The theater is located in the back of Pub Bricco located at 1835 Merriman Road, Akron, Ohio. Tickets may be purchased by calling (330) 671-4563 or online at www.nonetoofragile.com.