Last night, I had the privilege of spending an evening hearing a new work by actor and playwright Stu Richel, photographer/journalist and soldier in the Vietnam War. Richel's play, Vietnam through my lens, runs through November 23 at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre in New York. While his experiences in Vietnam form the core of the play, the scope of his reminiscence is larger, candid, and willing to be puzzled. Complemented by Richel's own photographs of the era, his lens puts a face on the American soldier, while showcasing his skill in character acting. The story is poignant without being self-serving, and I loved how Stu connected directly with the audience--some of whom were comrades from soldiering--and how he offered meta commentary on the experience of doing the show while performing it. Actor Loretta Switt had attended the show the previous evening, drawing full circle the connection he made between himself and MASH character Corporal Max Klinger. Vietnam through my lens is clearly an evolving piece, offered matter-of-factly and in the moment, which complements the emotional truth of the piece. If I had a wish, it would be for more photos--the excellent montages by Michael Lee Stever make this performance both more personal and more epic at the same time, and their cinematic quality is like a musical score in the way it drives emotions and represents Richel's mindscape. Directed with sensitivity by Linda S. Nelson, the play makes excellent use of the black box space, and is dramatically lit by Elaine Wong. It was an honor to spend an evening with Stu and his comrades. Tears, laughter, and the process of making sense. There is closure, but there are questions. So it goes when living an examined life.
- United States
- Deborah S. Greenhut, PhD, is a playwright, arts documentarian, and educator who began teaching in a one-room school house in rural New England during 1970. These days you can find me collaborating with urban educators and students, seeking new ways to make education artful. I have consulted on management skills and communication arts in 44 of the United States and 5 provinces in Canada. I believe that people learn more effectively through drama-assisted instruction, and I exploit the Internet to deliver it. The views expressed here are entirely mine and not those of any other institution or organization.