Wars have a polarizing effect on families. Our mid-20th century skirmishes in Southeast Asia had dire consequences. Children returned damaged from their experiences to families that had once been seamlessly integrated into the American dream.
For the returning vets, like David (Ben Schnetzer) in David Rabe’s Sticks and Bones, at the New Group through December 14th, the dream had turned into a nightmare.
David’s damage is psychic as well as physical. He is both maimed and disillusioned. Normal will never be the ordinary life he had. His brother Ricky (Raviv Ullman), mother Harriet (Holly Hunter) and father Ozzie (Bill Pullman) don’t share his reality; they are ill-equipped to deal with tragedy. David’s family is, however, lives each day with an undertone of quiet brutality.
Sticks and Bones was conceived at the height of the Vietnam conflict; it won Rabe a Tony in 1972. It grew out of an era when the conservative values of the Eisenhower years uncomprehendingly clashed with global events. Originally produced off Broadway in 1971 at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre, Sticks and Bones was the second play in Rabe’s Vietnam trilogy, which began with The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and was followed by Streamers.
In Sticks and Bones, the disruption from the norm is extreme, tragic and occassionally funny. Sticks and Bones is a satire, skewering the expectation that everything is okay. Under Scott Elliott’s direction, the play achieves its destiny as a radical vision of a troubled time. The actors play out their unappealing characters with naturalism that belies the play’s surreal contexts. Bill Pullman gives an especially wrenching performance in this standout ensemble.
Along with the immediate family at the heart of our story, the cast of characters also include Father Donald (Richard Chamberlain), Zung (Nadia Gan) and Sergeant Major (Morocco Omari).
For more information and tickets to Sticks and Bones, please visit http://www.thenewgroup.org/sticks-and-bones.html