Last of the Boys, playing at the Fells Point Corner Theatre at 251 S Ann Street, is a play that delves into the lives of two best friends and Vietnam veterans decades after they were forever changed by the devastation of the war.
The relationship of the two men is strained as both try to forget about the traumatic experience and save their friendship. Ben, played by Mark Squirek, is living alone in a trailer park that has long been abandoned by his neighbors. This solitude only pushes him further into his self-inflicted isolation and internal battles. Jeeter, played by Tony Colavito, is eccentric and sucked into new-age philosophy and fills his time with Rolling Stones concerts and meaningless hookups. Jeeter just returned from Ben’s fathers funeral, which Ben missed, with mementos such as the American flag draped over the coffin.
Squirek is subtle in showing Ben’s torment, but in the aching moments of silence, we can see through expression and body language alone, how fundamentally lost the character is. Often times the moments are punctuated with the sound of gunfire or helicopters, placing the audience in his position. Squirek’s interactions with Colavito are done spectacularly, with glimpses into what their friendship was like before they were burdened with the experiences of war.
Jeeter’s woman-of-the-month is Salyer played by Casey Dutt, an angsty younger woman with an interest in the war due to a mysterious father figure that died while in the service. Sal’s mother Lorraine, played by a wonderfully stressed-out and mourning Katherine Lyons, eventually winds up at Ben’s trailer looking for her wayward daughter.
A turning point in the play has Sal, in the midst of a fight with Jeeter, criticizes his obsessive nature, saying he is “always stuck on something”. This represents the stagnancy of Ben and Jeeter.
Ben throughout the show also struggles with mixed feelings about the war, part of him feels like a hero while the other part feels like a monster. Sal and Lorraine are still grief-stricken over the loss of a man the loved or never knew.
“They’re all sick. All four characters are suffering so deeply, there’s such pain,” said director of Last of the Boys, Barry Feinstein.
Feinstein himself is a veteran of the time, being drafted to Okinawa in the 60s.
“I was drafted and like the characters say, when you get that letter a fog just comes over you,” he said, referencing a recurring theme of fog and the unknown in the play.
When discussing the challenges in directing such complex characters, Feinstein was interrupted by Squirek who said “He’s steering an extremely large ship and we didn’t hit an iceberg. I’m an extremely lucky man, thank you Barry.”
Feinstein says that PTSD was a common problem in veterans, who were often villianized by the community when they returned home. This shift in the society from unwavering support, to vehement hatred of the soldiers naturally affected their acclimation back into reality.
He said that as 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, which marked the end of the Vietnam war, is remembered, it’s important that we remember those that were at the front line because their pain remains once they’re off the battlefield.
For example, Ben deals with his pain by embodying the spirit of Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense who sent the boys to war. As McNamara, Ben is haunted by the ghost of a young soldier.
Sal is the only other one who can see the ghost of the soldier.
“Do you believe in ghosts, Ben?,” she asks at one point, “Yeah, me neither. But they keep turning up now, don’t they?”
Lorraine has her daughter’s attitude paired with a lingering bitterness over the war who took the love of her life from her. Her breakdown is made all the more tragic when Sal begs her to see the ghost to no avail.
The explosive climax has the four characters getting drunk and releasing the tension that has been building up since Jeeter and Ben reunited. Secrets and lies are revealed, opening wounds and exposing how inescapable PTSD has plagued these men and potentially ruining their friendship forever.
Last of the Boys opened on May 15 and will play until June 7. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit. www.fpct.org.
by GIANNA DECARLO EDITOR@BALTIMOREGUIDE.COM