Fringe production of Vietnam play is a moderate success

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The Space | By Daniel O’Mahony
Three Stars

STAGED IN a cleverly converted church on the Isle of Dogs, this production from The Barebones Project is about Vietnam veterans; at least, you’re assured it is. Adorning the walls of the theatre are pictures from the conflict, and over the PA plays Hendrix’s tormented rendition of Star Spangled Banner. But the war is barely mentioned in the script. The story revolves around the internal and fraternal conflicts of three convalescing soldiers, none of whom“want to talk about it.”

Gately (Gary Wright) is a homely Southerner singularly determined to repair a broken radio; burly Silvio (Laurie Wilson) flashes nurses in the hospital to compensate for his emasculating war injuries; the supercilious Natwick (Jim Pople) is a confused and frustrated intellectual. All three turn in decent performances, but the star of the show is undoubtedly Wright – unlike the other two, his authentic sounding twang never wavers, and he lends a humanity to Gately that can be both hilarious and heart-breaking.

The minimal staging is effective, with garish flickering lighting and oppressive whitewashed walls. A well-paced first act is undermined by an overly rushed second, making for an unsatisfactory conclusion. Overall it’s entertaining enough, even if you won’t “want to talk about it” much afterwards.