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Making love, not war: 'The Dodgers' relives the drama of the Vietnam draft

Making love, not war: 'The Dodgers' relives the drama of the Vietnam draft
Asher Grodman and Talisa Friedman star in Diana Amsterdam's new play, "The Dodgers," at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre in Hollywood. (Michael Lamont)

In December 1969, millions of Americans watched the televised drawing for the Vietnam draft. Diana Amsterdam tries to capture the impact of that dread event in her new play, "The Dodgers," at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre.

As an exercise in nostalgia, "The Dodgers" is richly evocative. Dramaturgically, however, it contains holes as big as an armored personnel carrier.

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Director Dave Solomon keeps the tone low-key yet consistently dynamic, while his gifted young performers struggle — and often succeed — in making sense of their murky motivations.

Asher Grodman plays Mick, an about-to-be-drafted youth who's frantic to find a draft "dodge." Eric Nelsen is Chili, a jokester who emerges, somewhat arbitrarily, as the moral center of the piece, and Jared Gertner is an eminently draftable "poor boy."

Corbin Bleu seems oddly underplayed as Simon, the rational voice amid the habitually stoned chatter, while Emma Hunton's strident performance as the fanatical anti-war activist Jane seems misplaced in this otherwise realistic construct.

In the standout turn of the production, fetching Talisa Friedman plays Patti, a cheerfully promiscuous innocent about to have her illusions shattered.

Emma Hunton and Corbin Bleu, rear, watch a broadcast over the shoulders of, from left, Eric Nelsen, Talisa Friedman,Asher Grodman and Jared Gertner in "The Dodgers" at Hudson Mainstage.
Emma Hunton and Corbin Bleu, rear, watch a broadcast over the shoulders of, from left, Eric Nelsen, Talisa Friedman,Asher Grodman and Jared Gertner in "The Dodgers" at Hudson Mainstage. (Michael Lamont)

Michael Carnahan and Ann Beyersdorfer's detailed set — a rural commune in the dead of a Northeastern winter — is extraordinary. The snug, funky hippie haven is where the play's young heroes gather to make love, create music and smoke plenty of pot. Jen Schriever and Ben Green's lighting, Diablo Sound and Alex Mackyol's sound, and, especially, Ann Closs-Farley's wacky period costumes are essential contributions to a triumph of theatrical design.

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But an abrupt feel-good ending has us wondering why Chili hasn't intervened to save Mick and spare Patti from humiliation. It's just one of many baffling shortcuts in this colorful but imperfect play.

"The Dodgers," Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 28. $34.99. (323) 960-7712. www.plays411.com/thedodgers. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Follow The Times' arts team @culturemonster.

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