note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
New Repertory Theatre opens its 26th season with MISTER ROBERTS, directed by Kate Warner, New Rep’s brand new artistic director. Warner shows she can mix it up with the boys by delivering a shipshape production of the WWII drama---which, believe it or not, diverted me from thinking about the movie (and I love the movie) the whole time.
Warner gets first rate performances all around, especially from Jonathan Popp as the loveable slacker, Ensign Pulver, from Owen Doyle as the ship’s sage doc, from Paul Farwell as a mean cuss of a captain and from Thomas Piper as the heroic Mr. Roberts. What makes these performances commanding is the inner life each actor manages to reveal underneath the dialogue. Case in point is Farwell’s rant about privilege. The captain is a son-of-a-gun but you realize why and you can even sympathize.
Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan’s play doesn’t merely celebrate those soldiers who risked their lives for a noble cause. It also packs a nifty punch about the high cost of war, something which certainly resonates now, when lives are being sacrificed without the righteous cause that drove WWII.
My only disappointment with the New Rep production is that Warner and company passed on an opportunity to reflect the diversity of our fighting forces in WWII. Asian-Americans enlisted in enormous numbers to demonstrate their patriotism. African-Americans and Native Americans played vital roles in combat--- so why, aboard the U.S.S. Reluctant sailing out of New Rep, is the crew of 174 (represented by eleven characters) all white? Talk about resonance! When the angry sailors in Act II are heatedly condemning “the Japs”, we’d have had to sit up and take notice if Asian-Americans were serving on the U.S.S. New Rep.
That’s just one woman’s opinion on multiculturalism. Now don’t get me started on the fact that MISTER ROBERTS has only one female role (and Clare McClanahan was terrific) if you don’t count the adorable, talented little goat. That’s my soapbox. Over and out.