Company: Howard Petrick, San Francisco, CA
Venue: Venue #3 - The Playhouse Studio
Petrick's subjective tale about breaking rank after being called up to serve in Vietnam is a satirical treat.
Petrick's subjective tale about breaking rank after being called up to serve in Vietnam is a satirical treat for those who enjoy the absurdest bite of Joseph Heller's Catch 22.
Proving the tongue is mightier than the sword, he uses smart-ass Yankee wit and the Socratic method to poke holes in his superiors' smug certainties about the "police action" in South East Asia which cost well over 50,000 American lives to say nothing of the devastation of Vietnam and its people.
His approach to a one man show, however, is more by-the-book. Petrick's menagerie of characters are serviceable and effective though they lean to cliche (barking officers, twangy drawls, and so on). Though judging from the stupidity recounted by Petrick, his take on the army brass may be more dead on than I dare to imagine. Breaking Rank is a page in a growing volume of material (including the excellent documentary Sir! No Sir!) which tells the story of the large anti war sentiment and protest within the ranks, which the military underplayed and covered up for years.
Were the show fiction, or were Petrick's stand not so courageous (he briefly faced the threat of a death sentence for treason) I would say this is a three-star show. But in the theatre of theatre, I get to hand out the stars, not the army, so he gets an extra from me as a proud salute to his work to bend the universe more toward justice.
A post-show shout out to Pfc. Bradley Manning who now faces serious charges for his role as a whistleblower on possible war crimes in Iraq, reminds the audience Mr. Petrick's war is not yet over.