TimeLine Theatre presents the world premiere of WASTELAND. It’s the Vietnam War. Joe is an American soldier. He is being held captive in an underground prison. He never sees anyone. His food is even dropped from the unseen opening into his pit of despair. He is in solitary confinement. And he is in hell. One day, a voice on the other side of the wall lets him know is no longer alone. Joe Riley is another prisoner of war. They share the same name and now the same incarceration conditions but everything else is different. Joe was drafted. Riley enlisted. They don’t agree on anything; religion, politics, sports, education, or who to date on “Star Trek.” What happens when two very different men are thrown together in a survival of the fittest? How much can a body and mind endure? WASTELAND illustrates inconceivable suffering with gritty realism.
Playwright Susan Felder wrote a compelling war story. The dialogue is a 60s/70s pop culture flashback. The premise is compelling and mind-blowing! And under the expert direction of William Brown, the two actors are exceptional. Their anguish is both unfathomable and relatable. Nate Burger (Joe) breaks my heart with crazy ritualism. Burger obsessively checks and rechecks his area. His entire body twitches with a mix of fear and paranoia. Burger hits the vulnerability extreme with ear-ringing honesty. He is never really alone because we are all in this cell with him. We are chained to his every movement. Just over the wall, Steve Haggard (Riley) uses his red-neck ways to amuse and provoke. Haggard’s distinct voice breaks through the barrier with a homey and playful style. His rants become endearing apologies. Because of his tough-guy exterior when Haggard loses some of his edginess and spirals into hopelessness, his descent goes deeper and darker. The pair pulls us into their shared nightmare. Powerful!
The creative team (Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet, Lighting Designer Jesse Klug, Sound Designer Andrew Hansen) worked overtime to simulate an underground prison. Hanging from the ceiling is a big ole dirt hole with branches and earth spiraling to the floor. Light, rain, and food come through the unseen top. On the stage, the floor is an uneven rock terrain. Jungle noises spook the days and nights. Being trapped underground in a foreign country during a war has to be the worst kind of torture imaginable. WASTELAND gives us a sensory explosive experience. We see it. We hear it. We start to feel it! I got uncomfortable toward the end. I’m not sure if it was the overwhelming suffering or that it’s a smidge too long. I just know I was ready to get the hell out of Vietnam!
Running Time: One hour and forty-five minutes
At TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington
Written by Susan Felder
Directed by William Brown
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Buy Tickets at www.timelinetheatre.com
Production photograph courtesy of Lara Goetsch