As I sat and looked over the minimalist set waiting for the play to begin, I knew I was about to experience something very extraordinary, but I had no idea just how extraordinary the experience would be.
The ninety-minute, one-act production is a seamless journey that weaves a tapestry of emotions by telling a universal story of those brave men and women who served in combat and the courageous family members at home with their own story to tell.
Based on true stories, ‘Last Out’ features events by playwright and lead actor Retired Lt. Col Scott Mann. Scott, a 23 year veteran in the United States Army, 18 of that as a Green Beret, plays the lead Danny Patton, a Green Beret killed in action who is now stuck between the land of the living and the final resting place for warriors known as Valhalla. The four-member ensemble also features Director and actor Ame Livingston, Bryan Bachman, and Len Bruce. Each member of the ensemble plays multiple characters, with the exception of Scott.
As the production begins the chaos of war unfolds with flashing lights, gunfire and the death of Danny Patton. Scott masterfully displays a true depth of courage through his remarkable performance with a full spectrum of emotions. He brilliantly exhibits his love and passion for country, family, fear, hate, humor and the deep bond of the brotherhood of servicemen and women. It is a performance that tugs at the heartstrings. Throughout the play, Scott’s character is thrust through his lifetime of memories by a green flash of light that is ingeniously designed and executed with a set of aluminum trusses that give the illusion of an enclosure.
At center, upstage, is the Wall of Honor. On the wall are compartments of pictures, memorabilia, and small trinkets and medals from actual hero’s, donated by their families in honor of their memory and sacrifice.
The scene changes come with the flash of green light and a distinct squelch. This ingenious technique represents the synapse of the full spectrum of memories of Danny Patton. With each scene change, we are transported to Danny’s past, from the southern United States to Afghanistan.
Ame Livingston, Director and female actor, plays four characters that show the wonderful talents of a truly gifted artist. The direction is flawless and each scene is brilliantly passed. Just when you think the heartache is overwhelming, a quick burst of levity is eased into a painful moment. Ame Plays a Pentagon Fire Fighter, Operator 599, a Valhalla operator assisting departed Warriors with memories of their life, an Intelligence Officer, and most importantly Lynn Patton, Danny’s wife. Her performance is remarkably stunning. In one scene her anguish brings the whole audience to tears. This is a performance that is worth the price of admission alone.
Len Bruce, 22 year Green Beret Veteran, plays Kenny Suggins, Danny’s dearest friend, and Malik Jan, the Afghan Pashtun Elder From Kara Khel Village. His performance is deliberate, and shows the seasoned talent of a gifted actor.
Bryan Bachman, 8 year Veteran, plays multiple characters and shows his incredible ability to transform his character at light speed. His final character is Danny’s son, Caiden, and his portrayal is riveting, heartfelt and honest. There is not a dry eye in the house at the end of this vital production as Scott’s writing brings beautifully elegant closure.
The experience was truly more than just a play. Each member of the ensemble, from the Producer (Monty Mann, Scott’s wife), stage manager, and technical crew, has either served in combat or has a close family member who served. All have deeply sacrificed and are compelled to be a part of this truly important journey. This play brings us a bit closer to the reality and sacrifice of war. The mission from here is to keep the dialog moving forward and help each and every soul who gave so much for our freedom, a voice. We need to be mindful every day that those who served many deployments suffer in silence.
This experience has forever opened my eyes and I have gained a stronger appreciation for those who have given so much. This is a play that must and will gain ground to higher levels and will touch the hearts of audiences for years to come throughout the nation.