It was a time Joe had put out of his mind. Those years were long forgotten. Joe was now a perfect husband and father, and South Dakota's Man of the Year. But on the night before his award ceremony, it all came back. Vietnam.
Ellenville's Shadowland Theatre closes out its season with Steve Tesich's drama The Speed of Darkness Sept. 8-24. Artistic director Bill Lelbach directs the production by the writer who brought us the films "The World According to Garp," "Eleni," and "American Flyers."
The play focuses on the decorated combat hero Joe, who has settled into his new life after the war, er.. conflict. That is, until his war buddy Lou shows up on his doorstep. Now homeless and destitute, Lou's visit makes Joe and his family face his shrouded past.
James Wetzel as Joe heads the cast that includes Bonnie Black, Cori-Lynn Campbell, Jared Gibson, and Brendan Burke, who will take on the role of Lou. Lelbach also lends his designing talents on sets to the team of Julie Duro on lights and Chris McDowell on costumes.
Speed had a brief Broadway run in 1991. Director Lelbach told Playbill On-Line (August 2000) the show's bad luck on Broadway was not the fault of the script. "Stephen Lang was terrific," Lelbach said, "but another major role was miscast, and they botched a major moment towards the end of the play... Because the show got bad reviews on Broadway, regional theatres didn't want to touch it, but it's a terrific play and one that says more about what America was like at that time than pretty much any other I've seen." Asked if such a weighty play fits in with audiences' perceptions of what constitutes a "summer theatre," Lelbach said, "Some people make a distinction that you have to cater to a 'summer audience' and do shows to make them happy. We do one or two like that, but we're really more of a regional theatre that compresses its season into five months. We don't do musicals, and we do shows like Darkness and Bluff and Keely and Du." With its wrap-around, semi-thrust configuration, Shadowland can hold anywhere from 120-148 seats.
For Speed tickets, call the Shadowland box office, 157 Canal St. In Ellenville, NY, at (914) 647-5511, or visit them online at www.shadowlandtheatre.org.
-- by Ernio Hernandez