By Philip Brandes
2:24 PM PDT, October 22, 2013
What started out 33 years ago as a cathartic purge of Vietnam combat trauma demonstrates artistic staying power and relevance in the hard-hitting revival of “Tracers” at the AMVETS Post II Building in Culver City.
Depicting the fates of infantry soldiers from basic training through deployment in Vietnam to the difficult reentry difficulties they face on their long way home, “Tracers” is as much a visceral experience as a dramatic presentation.
Director-author John DiFusco developed the play in collaboration with seven fellow Vietnam War veterans, who originally performed in it as the characters they each created.
In this co-production from the United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance and Rogue Machine Theatre, a well-cast new ensemble of armed service veterans infuses the roles with the raw intensity of personal experience, even as these performers illuminate enduring truths from the conflict of a past generation.
Steeped in graphic specificity, Di Fusco’s take-no-prisoners staging portrays the alienation, drug abuse and tenuous grip on sanity that take their toll on young men thrust into harrowing circumstances for which they’re tragically unprepared.
There is more redundancy in the characters and their stories than strictly needed to get the messages across, but the pacing and momentum never flag. Potentially confusing dual endings show the war-fighters’ two possible paths to returning home, neither of which is easy.
Along with the challenges they face, however, they also learn discipline and forge a unique camaraderie celebrated in the percussive rock finale. By design, “Tracers” is neither pro- nor antiwar; rather than pushing us to judgment, the piece asks for understanding — which is just as important for educating those who never served in Vietnam and honoring those who did.
“Tracers,” USVAA Theater in the AMVETS Post II Building, 10858 Culver Blvd., Culver City. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 9. $30. (855) 585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.
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