Young or old, everyone has heard or can identify with music of the 1960s, woven into the American fabric by such artists as The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. “Last of the Boys,” which provides a glimpse into the lives of Vietnam vets 30 years after the war, uses the music of that era to put us simultaneously in the present and the past.
The setting for the play is Ben’s (Karl Schoettler) home atop a caustic land site, which is visited each summer by his Vietnam buddy Jeeter (Aaron Johnson). The vets’ 30-year friendship has turned tense with the death of Ben’s father and their differing views on the war. Ben, supporting the view of Robert McNamara, describes the action in Vietnam as a necessary “tactical exercise.” Jeeter views it as devastation that McNamara could have halted, reducing the body count.
Jeeter, having picked up Salyer (Katie Welch) on the way to the funeral of Ben’s father, brings her to Ben for approval. He is in love and wants his buddy to tell him to marry her. Salyer, the daughter of a soldier killed in Vietnam, is enamored by anyone who was in the war, searching for details as she wants to know her father.
Salyer’s mother Lorraine (Diana Carson-Walker) traces Salyer through credit card charges, and following at a safe distance, ultimately finds Jeeter in Ben’s yard. Lorraine wants her daughter back, but their relationship is strained. Lorraine never told Salyer her father was drafted, but rather said that he just left. When Salyer learns the truth, she is crushed.
The relationships among Ben, Jeeter, Salyer and Lorraine are further complicated by the appearance of a young soldier (Ethan de Malignon). Who is he? What is his mission?
The cast finds the play intriguing and believes the audience will too. Johnson commented, “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry, and the music is wonderful.”
“When my daughter was in Iraq, she could call me on her cell phone,” noted Carson-Walker. “It was very different during the Vietnam War. The play is intense and interesting and will take you everywhere.”
“There is a mystical element that is larger than one person’s imagination,” added co-director Irene Morse.
On Sunday, May 18th, after the matinee, “Back Stage at the Ice House” will be hosted by Sharon DeCoux, a veteran Visalia Player. Audience members will have an opportunity for a behind the scenes look at the show and the opportunity to ask questions and interact with cast and crew.
“Last of the Boys” runs for three weekends at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia. Evening performances are at 7:30pm on May 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24, and matinees are at 2pm on May 11, 18 and 25. Note: The show contains adult language and the sounds of war. “Last of the Boys” is performed without an intermission.
To purchase tickets, visit www.visaliaplayers.org or “Visalia Community Players” on Facebook, or call 734-3900.