Review: 'Six Years' at Lex Theatre
The "Greatest Generation" that shouldered the brunt of World War II and its aftermath is justly renowned for its tough-minded endurance in the face of adversity. But playwright Sharr White cautions that stoicism does not always equate sanity in his antiwar drama, "Six Years."
Written in response to the start of a new round of warfare in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, White's play receives an earnest staging from the fledgling Momentum Theatre Group, whose ambitions for the moment exceed its artistic reach.
As a structuring device, White uses snapshot scenes at six-year intervals to chart the marriage of a St. Louis couple between two crisis points in 1949 and 1973. The first is a seedy motel room confrontation in which rain-drenched Meredith Granger (Wendy Kaplan Foxworth) tracks down her wayward soldier husband Phil (G. Scott Brown), who's been wandering aimlessly after returning from the war. In the complementary closer, it's rain-drenched Phil who barges into troubled Meredith's motel room amid the turbulence of the Vietnam era.
Each confrontation reflects the war-torn fabric of American society. Yet despite director Keven Kaddi's obvious commitment to the play's overarching theme, the most successful scenes are the relatively off-message portraits of Americana in the intervening years.
A well-played 1955 dinner party (with fine period props) brings the tensions underlying the complacency of post-war prosperity to the surface, as Meredith's pushy salesman brother (Justin Bloomer), his primly obedient wife (Dre Slaman), and their shy business partner (Alex Gunn), try to recruit Phil in their scheme to erect affordable Levittown-style planned communities.
A particularly poignant split-stage scene set in 1961 contrasts Phil's naive optimism at the dawn of the JFK administration against Meredith's cynical adultery, with a subtle eye for cultural detail that foreshadows the appeal of "Mad Men."
Unfortunately, White pulls out the sledgehammer for the predictably melodramatic Vietnam War segments. While Foxworth turns in an emotionally convincing performance throughout, the miscast Brown swings wildly for the fences in depicting Phil's instability, and misses more often than he connects.
-- Philip Brandes
"Six Years," Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 22. $20. (323) 871-1150. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Caption: Sarah Cook and G. Scott Brown in "Six Years." Credit: Dove Huntley