And A Wake-Up
nytheatre.com review by Carissa Cordes
August 18, 2010
The phrase "and a wake-up" is "military slang used for counting down the full days and last day until a person transitions away from a tour assignment. Usually one involving great stress and personal risk." An example used in the play is "364 and a wake-up." And a Wake-Up, by Megan Condit, left me terribly confused.
The play starts off with a funeral tableau punctuated by the sound of knocking. The play primarily centers on a family, not the dead soldier's family but his fiancee's family. The patriarch, Charles Sloan (Christopher Hurt), manufactures body armor worn by soldiers, and we learn that he is incredibly influential and controlling in the town and in his own family. His wife Lily (Lee Roy Rogers) is the dutiful spouse but is also sleeping with the Sheriff (Lawrence Arancio). Their daughter, Rachel (Alexandria Wailes), is now going to marry David (Kyle Knauf), the only man willing to propose after her fiance, John (Parker Dixon), is killed in battle and named a war hero. In the middle of the family dinner we learn that war protesters have begun protesting in front of Sloan's factory for some unnamed reason. As most of the family is leaving for the evening's entertainment John returns in full uniform with a head wound; moving zombie-like he scares Lily, who is the only one left in the house. John reappears at the bar where the Sloan family, David, the Sheriff, and the young reporter Molly (Romy Nordlinger) are enjoying the evening. Upon entering the bar, John is beaten by David and Charles because they thought he was a protester and left to bleed, only to be rescued and later presented on television by Molly.
As the play progresses, we learn the soldier really is John and he is brought back into the community. He wears a suit, speaks out against the war, and loves passionately, all with a bleeding head wound. At the play's conclusion the whole family and community has been upturned by the unexpected return of the war hero. And maybe that's the point, but how that point is made seems convoluted between multiple locations and very short scenes. And then there's the question of John: is he undead or is he a metaphor for the stress of returning to civilian life? His head wound (which is mentioned in the beginning but not in the end) never goes away, he smells like rotten meat (mentioned in the beginning of the play but never again), and we don't know how or why he made it back. Why is Sloan Industries under scrutiny? Is the body armor they manufacture defective? These are some of the elements in the story that start off strong but don't follow through and left me wondering what was happening.
There are some lovely moments in the play, such as a flag dance done by protestors, and I did chuckle when the army took back the memorial flag "because they are in such short supply." Hurt does well as the hateful, shifty, and very human Sloan. Jacob Hoffman and Arancio play their multiple characters very well and Dixon is a convincing dead/alive again soldier.
Maybe a soldier can never assimilate back into civilian life, maybe he always wears his wounds, but if this is point, I have been struggling to piece it together. I think the script needs some more work put into it because this has the potential to be an incredible story.