Despite original and provocative performances by Austin Kelly, Suanne Spoke and Philip Cass, playwright Keith Reddin’s saga of life on a Strategic Air Command base outside Omaha is muddled and disjointed, meandering through the lives of the characters without ever effectively conveying a dramatic story.
With the end of the Cold War, the mission of the nuclear missile crews in their SAC silos has become even more surreal, as they wait and prepare for the launch that they hope will never come. It is no surprise that the men and women of these crews, not to mention their families, spend their time drinking and quietly going crazy out on the Nebraska plain.
Lt. Dean Swift (K.C. Marsh) and Lt. Henry Fielding (Cass) are pretty typical of all soldiers who have drawn this extremely tedious, if important, duty. They carp endlessly at each other when they are down in the silos, surface for awhile to fight with their wives or girlfriends, get drunk and then go back down again. And, occasionally, they are called to task by their commanding officer, the very eccentric Major Jack Gurney (Kelly).
The families of servicemen suffer mightily from the boredom and helplessness of military life, and this base is no exception.
Lt. Swift’s wife Julie (Kate Asner) is clearly fed up with her lot as a military spouse who, having just returned from a hateful tour of duty in Germany , lands in the equally hateful emotional morass of this Nebraska SAC base.
Maj. Gurney’s wife, Carol (Spoke), has virtually given up, becoming an alcoholic and the base slut after her husband has deserted her in favor of listening to Wagner operas. Only the bachelor, Lt. Fielding, seems to be having any fun, as he drinks beer after beer and chases after the giggly radar officer, Lt. Newman (Kathleen Flynn).
While the backdrop of the nuclear missile base and the looming specter of nuclear weaponry — admittedly more remote today than several years ago — provides an extra dimension to the proceedings, the boredom, frustration and anger of military base life is very familiar territory. Reddin’s script adds little to the mix, with the characters thrashing about in a play that has little point and even less story. He misses an opportunity to reflect on some of the larger issues of nuclear weapons or even military life, and instead settles for the obvious if unfortunate point that a bunch of drunken, neurotic hotheads are tending the missile silos.
Kelly is fine and inventive as the eccentric commander, and Spoke is outstanding as his dissolute, desperate wife. Cass also shines as the volatile, outspoken Fielding. Asner and Marsh are solid as the couple who are trying to make things work, although they often seem as if they are in a different play from the rest of the cast. Director Paul Brennan does a credible job with the staging, although he never is able to find anything that soars in Reddin’s often pedestrian text.