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Parade’s End: Stage Drama Looks at a Soldier’s Return

Playwright Rebecca Stahl’s Everything in Between may be a message play, but as such it’s a fundamentally sound one. One of its virtues is the clear picture it furnishes of the kinds of behavior exhibited by sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder when their illness goes untreated,

Deborah Klugman

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Tania Verafield and Jaimyon Parker in “Everything in Between.” (Photo by Ed Krieger)

Some stories bear retelling no matter how many times we’ve heard them before, and Rebecca Stahl’s melodrama about an emotionally disturbed veteran of our recent wars in the Middle East falls into that niche. While the play could lose a couple of its contrivances, and the performances, under John DiFusco’s direction, need more dimension, the drama’s nuts-and-bolts remain worthy of attention.

Lance Porter (Jaimyon Parker) is a young veteran tormented by flashbacks and hallucinations that challenge his sanity and interfere with his relationship with his supportive girlfriend, Brooke (Tania Verafield). He’s also frustrated by his experience with the Department of Veterans Affairs, where bureaucracy has stalled his efforts to secure a loan to start his own business. To calm his fraying nerves, Lance makes frequent visits to the American Legion bar where he often runs into Ed (J. Kenneth Campbell), an alcoholic doctor at the VA, and Gertie (Caron Strong), a former VA counsellor, whose regular beers are a way to salve her grief from the loss of her husband, who died in combat five years earlier. Ed in particular often engages in discussions with the elderly bartender, Curly (Campbell De Silva), who lost his left arm in Korea. Curly’s given to philosophizing and dispensing advice, and despite some outmoded ideas, he’s a boulder of sanity among hurting folks who desperately need it.

Lance’s unhappiness grows more intense after Martin (Fred Hirz), a friend of his deceased father, refuses to hire him for a construction job, and his waking nightmares begin to imperil Brooke when he mistakes her more than once for the bushwhacking “enemy.” Moreover, he refuses to rejoin the band he once belonged to, and his instability makes him jealous and unreasonably watchful, even as he shies away from physical intimacy. The other characters try to run interference, to put the increasingly unraveling Lance back on track, while at the same time exposing their own anxieties and conflicts. Tensions build to a life-or-death crisis a couple of times.

Everything in Between may be a message play, but as such it’s a fundamentally sound one. One of its virtues is the clear picture it furnishes of the kinds of behavior exhibited by sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder when their illness goes untreated. Though the script could use trimming, Stahl’s dialogue is effortlessly natural, and her scenes offer actors the opportunity for emotional exploration. The problem here is that not much exploration takes place.

Parker’s haunted Lance is earnest but skin-deep. When he and Brooke fight, voices are raised and the pace quickens, but their chemistry is scant and little complexity is on view. Both Campbell and De Silva play interesting characters, but Campbell resorts too often to merely depicting a smart and colorful drunk. De Silva’s bio tells us he hasn’t performed on stage for a long time, and his lack of range confirms it.

The production’s other limitations have to do with the staging, which takes place in a large meeting hall (in the Hollywood American Legion Post), with the seating on floor level. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but the large room and the audience’s distance from the performers in the frequent bar scenes detracts from their impact and intimacy. The lighting equipment (as opposed to the design, by Ray Pierce) also has limitations, and some scenes are played in shadow. The set (by Richard Desiasto) for Lance and Brooke’s apartment, though detailed, resembles a dorm room rather than the living quarters of a partnered couple.

The production debuted on Veterans Day, which I suppose is apt — but really it might have benefited from more rehearsal.


American Legion Post 43, 2035 Highland Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat.; 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through December 4. brownpapertickets.com

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