In present-day South Dakota, Joe (Andy Garrison) epitomizes the American Dream. He’s a self-made man, a Vietnam war hero who bounced up the ladder of success from garbage man to owner of a thriving a construction company.
He worries when he hears of plans to build a housing project on a nearby mesa. His wife (Weatherly) and daughter, a high-school senior (Rachael Harris), don’t completely understand why, nor do they fathom his short temper and drinking that ensues.
When his long-lost war buddy, Lou (Glass), comes to visit, Joe confronts a beaten man, “a bum.” Having wandered the country following a traveling Vietnam Memorial, Lou reminds Joe of the anger and resentment the two exuded when they returned from the war. The darkness is descending again.
This production comes on the fading heels of a Broadway bow nearly three years ago, and a superb production at North Hollywood’s Gnu Theatre just over two years ago. In some ways, this production is even better than the latter; but in one key way, it is not.
Throughout the Gnu production, James Handy showed Joe as a passionate, intense man. Here, director Spera has Andy Garrison’s Joe begin as the perfect, patient sitcom dad, no doubt to reinforce arc. The net effect in Tesich’s complex script, however, is to betray Joe’s past that’s only a pulse away and the reason Joe cannot sleep many nights.
For the other characters, though, Spera’s direction elicits many nuances. Glass mesmerizes as Lou. Lou becomes a man steeped in sympathy and empathy, a tortured soul so betrayed by his war experiences, he sees himself as dead — he even tried to etch his name in Washington’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.
Yet he delights in such simple pleasures as answering a door or holding a pretend baby. Best known for his role in “Barney Miller,” Glass takes full advantage of a plum role.
Weatherly’s Anne, too, impresses. She exposes a woman who had been as broken as Lou or Joe,but her wounds came from drifting without purpose from man to man. Her years with Joe have been healing — until now.
As daughter Mary, Harris delivers a highly believable young woman, nervous about her future and touched by Lou. As Mary’s boyfriend, Scott Weinger (known as the voice of Aladdin and for roles on “Life Goes On” and “Full House”) makes a fascinating adolescent, one who sees the road ahead almost as bleakly as Lou, yet his wry comments on family and life give him hope.
The set by Keven Lock is highly detailed and nicely fits the Tamarind’s wide stage. Miye Matsumoto’s costumes, numerous and contrasting, reveal character well. Dawn Ferry’s lighting and Robert Strong’s sound, including music by pianist George Winston, reinforce the moods.