Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
Now the Roundabout Theatre Company has entered the new season with a one-man show called Beyond Glory, written and performed by Stephen Lang. Adapted from Larry Smith's book of the same title, it offers brief portraits of eight Medal-of-Honor recipients, including Daniel K. Inouye, the Democratic Senator from Hawaii who served during World War II in the 442nd (Nisei) Regimental Combat Team, and James Stockdale,a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for seven-and-a-half years Ross Perot's running mate during the 1992 presidential election.
Alone on a sleek, circular stage, Lang transforms into the various men, reaching into a trunk for a change of shirt and then altering his physical stance, his gestures, his voice—his entire body really. The challenge of a one-person show such as this is to make the transition from one character to another smoothly, and under Robert Falls' restrained direction, Lang begins each shift slightly in advance of a new character's words.
The strapping, muscled Lang is thoroughly credible as a soldier, but he is at his best as the toughest of the eight: 97-year-old John William Finn, who was about to make love to his wife on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, when the Japanese had the temerity to bomb Pearl Harbor. Finn was so angry about the interruption (among other things) that he rushed to an airplane hangar, grabbed a .30 caliber machine gun and, despite being wounded, fired on the Japanese bombers for two-and-a-half hours.
For centuries war has largely tended to generate two kinds of literature and performance: the kind that depicts war's awfulness, and the kind that glorifies battle and the heroes that fight. Sherriff's Journey's End, in portraying the unselfconscious heroism of men who go into battle despite tremendous fear, exposed war's horrific conditions. Beyond Glory, despite a title that suggests there is another side to receiving military honors, aims to demonstrate and praise men's courage. While one may shudder at Stockdale's account of his treatment as a POW, the real point of this cameo is how Stockdale avoided torture—and avoided submitting to his captors—by hurting himself so badly in advance of an "interrogation" that the North Vietnamese could not display him as a true conquest. Stockdale's heroism,, rather than the war that made it necessary, is the point here, and it should not surprise that Lang has successfully toured his play to military bases around the world.
Perhaps it is unfair to compare Journey's End and Beyond Glory. The first is a well-plotted drama filled with a range of dimensional characters. The second is really slivers of oral history shaped into actable, occasionally entertaining stories. While Journey's End explores what it means to risk one's life, while Beyond Glory is all about describing the risk, even celebrating it, and coming out alive. Oh, there are nods to the reality that war has another side: the black soldier Vernon Baker has to wait more than 50 years to receive the Medal of Honor he rightfully earned during World War II, and Senator Inouye refers to the appalling U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during that war. But Inouye's story, the last in the play, ends with his father's platitudes: "We all love this country. Whatever you do, do not dishonor your country."
There is a simple, macho appeal to Lang's play. After all, how can you resist war stories that focus on those who come through fire and brimstone by virtue of sheer guts? But there is no real investigation into what exists beyond the glory.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide