Lab Theatre Company pays comedic homage to Vietnam Veterans in James McLure’s parody of post war rehabilitation.
Under the magnificent direction of Peter Kalos, the brilliant cast of Josh Massarotti, Indigo Parer and Joseph Baldwin, share a multitude of shrapnel and mental wounds in an American psychiatric hospital. The hysterical performance sees the soldiers exhibiting tumultuous antagonistic interactions whilst prolonging the inevitable return to society.
Silvio (Josh Massarotti), a proud Italian city slicker, joins fellow Veteran Gately (Indigo Parer), a hillbilly type, in the C-ward recreation room. Silvio whirls around erratically in his wheelchair, his urinal bag dangling on the side and launches into a trivial tirade. A calm Gately tinkers away at a broken box radio and goads Silvio’s manic behaviour with hilarious one liners, ‘whoop, whoops’, guttural dog barks and show mutual admiration for each other with macho handshakes and an unexpected ‘I love you’.
They both turn on rich kid and timid bookworm, Private Natwick (Joseph Baldwin). His failed attempt to prove his self-worth as a soldier, finds him in a perpetual state of paranoia and in a love/hate relationship with Gately and Silvio.
The entire cast effortlessly performs Director Peter Kalos’ punchy vision of McLure’s candid story. Well-timed jokes and short sharp scenes compliment their authentic performance of post war psychosis.
Parer is mesmerising as the master manipulator Gately who finds delight in tormenting his friends. He riles up the incredible and believable Massarotti as the volatile and deluded Silvio, to the point of distraction and in the next instant calms him with quirky meditation techniques.
Gately undermines Natwick’s intelligence, yet refuses to indulge him in a game of chess, borrows his clothes then excludes him on their night out on the town. Baldwin’s realistic portrayal of shy and depressed Natwick receives a chorus of compassionate sighs from the almost full house audience at the Alex Theatre.
Gately too, is subject to Silvio and Natwick’s obsessive behaviours. Silvio gets up close in Gately’s face on a regular basis querying his opinion on a variety of obscure subjects and they get into a long-winded amusing debate over loose fitting underwear.
Natwick bugs and probes Gately for his opinion on books then interrupts his answer in a droll and nasal Long Island accent saying, ‘I don’t wanna talk about it.’
Time heals all wounds for the trio of misfits. Silvio’s unusual walking gait doesn’t stop him dropping his pants to flash the nurses. Gately is on the verge of fixing the radio and is convinced it will deem him fit for early release from the hospital. Though he can’t quite figure out who keeps stealing the parts. Natwick comes to terms with his over bearing mother. In a letter he thanks her for sending him guppies for his fish tank and requests she doesn’t send anymore as Silvio smashed them with his hammer.
Gately’s provocations take a back seat to Silvio’s pranks against the good-natured Natwick. He offers him a coffee and the cup is smothered in super glue. The tables turn after Silvio suffers another flashback dream and their mutual ongoing nightmares bring them closer, well for a moment, until Silvio’s next prank.
We are reminded of the diversity in race and gender pre and post WW II. Diana Puot plays the long-suffering Nurse and provides comic relief and back-story. Her facial gestures are priceless when she finds herself on the receiving end of Silvio’s open dressing gown ‘flashes’ and Gately’s declarations of love. She is silent, subtle compassionate company for Natwick when he hosts his sparsely attended film nights.
The fast paced first act of running gags is followed by a more somber second act. The years of rehabilitation have flown by and Silvio will be the first to leave the hospital. His departure happens to coincide with the 4th of July celebrations.
The trio bond over drinks, flag waving, salutes to American Presidents and inhibitions dissolve. Their relaxed state evokes questions and answers. Gately questions the stolen radio parts. Why does Silvio’s injury make him so aggressive? Will Natwick succumb to the darkness of his paranoia? The story wraps as quirky answers fly around the rec room at a substantial slower pace.
The production executed floorless scene changes on the well-appointed stage and conveyed themes with minimal props. An effective screen projection containing black and white footage introduces the perceptions of war and encapsulates the mental state of the returned soldiers.
Indulge in old fashioned and authentic theatre in modern comfortable seats with loads of leg room. PVT Wars individual sophisticated performances and healthy dose of humour, challenges past and present views of war.