Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mr. Roberts"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark


"Mr. Roberts"

by Thomas Heggen and Josh Logan
Directed by Kate Warner

Scenic Design by Patrick Lynch
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Costume Design by Molly Trainer
Sound Design by David Wilson
Assistant Stage Manager Emily Page
Production Stage Manager Amy Weissenstein

Insigna...........................................Ben Chase
Doc..............................................Owen Doyle
The Captain.................................Paul D. Farwell
Dolan............................................Ed Hoopman
Stefanowski......................................Kurt Clump
Lindstrom..................................Grant MacDermott
Chief Johnson, Reber, Shore Patrol Officer...Ross MacDonald
Lieutenant Ann Girard.....................Claire McClanahan
Lieutenant (jg) Roberts........................Thomas Piper
Ensign Pulver.................................Jonathan Popp
Gerhart, Military Policeman, Wiley...............Tim Spears

When Pearl Harbor was bombed, I was nine. The first movie I ever saw without my parents was called "Bataan". And for years I wanted to fly airplanes. Radio, movies, magazines and books made the Second World War "real" to me in romantic, patriotic ways. It was "my" war --- in a way the Korean Conflict wasn't, even though in 1952 I was drafted and spent a total of eighteen Days in the Army before discharged because of asthma. Any wonder then that seeing THE GOOD WAR and MR. ROBERTS in the same 72 hours felt a little like re-living my youth?

For those reasons, my view of these plays may differ from yours. I can see "Mr. Roberts" (which opened originally in 1946) with the four years of "The Good War" playing as a background. It's set in a little backwater eddy in that maelstrom: a busy cargo-freighter ferrying supplies to those fighting "the real war" in the Pacific. Thomas Piper plays the efficient, human, over-qualified Executive-Officer who really runs the ship and who serves, when he can, as a buffer between a put-upon, overworked crew and the re-tread ex-Merchant Marine Captain (Paul D. Farwell) exploiting everyone in his drive for a promotion. The good guys and the bad guy are clearly defined.

But, of course, there is also a war on. Lieutenant (jg) Roberts wants to use his talents to fight the enemy, not the autocrat on the bridge --- and the war is passing him by. His is a deeply held patriotism hard to understand in a world where "war" means Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Where this show really shines is in the men that Roberts tries to build into a crew. And this was also a theme in nearly every movie made during the war. Their very names (Dolan, Gerhart, Lindstrom, Stefanowski) represent the American melting-pot united in the war-effort. They are the Navy's "grunts" who move the cargo, obey even the silliest of orders, and blow off steam with the same full-out enthusiasm they'd use firing at deadly kamikazi's were they given the chance.

Director Kate Warner has molded this cast, officers as well as men, into an ensemble. Each comes on stage a unique human being ready to show their individuality, bickering and complaining and showing-off --- but ready to unite for common good or against a common enemy.

Without that "Good War" only a year in the past, "Mr. Roberts" can seem, well, quaint. It is a time-capsule, but one in which I find my childhood reflected.

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

"Mr. Roberts" (13 September - 3 October)
THE NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
Arsenal Center for The Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, WATERTOWN MA
1 (617)923-8487

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