Scott developed a great general premise for this excellent story with key flashback after flashback illustrating a tragic love story of the highest order that is filled with historical accuracy ranging from Special Forces in Vietnam through Afghanistan that included three generations of a family’s pain-filled stories. Scott clearly understands the screenwriting craft and has managed to create very alive characters, fast-paced action, compelling dialogue and speech (including profanity), with pacing that held the full attention of the audience with no slow points during the entire 85 minutes of the play. This is the most emotionally compelling play I’ve ever seen – and is well ahead of most war movies and books. Hemingway came to mind as I drove away. Memorial Day weekend was an ideal time to attend this presentation. A few selected comments for the following:
THEME: Scott has done an amazing job in presenting an extremely serious and important theme related to the love within a military family within the context of an entertaining and emotional story in which the deceased protagonist is urged to continue his final journey by his best and equally deceased friend as powerfully compelling flashbacks take Danny through special episodes in his life – the only way to deliver Scott’s message to the audience. The conflicts with duty to family, duty to the team, and duty to mission are combined carefully to illustrate the deep emotional pain felt by military wives and children experiencing fear and deep anguish for their loved one with whom communications are usually sporadic.
PRESENTATION: The entire team did an amazing job in delivering 85 minutes of tension through a carefully managed combination of images, sound and light, and realistic dialogue as the “midway” team endeavors to convince Danny to agree to moving “upward” instead of missing this opportunity completely. Kenny Suggins’ radio-like communications with the “higher authority” as the “deadline” was approaching were short but highly effective as he requested more time again and again.
CHARACTERS: There were only FOUR actors in the play but with the exception of Scott in his “Danny” role, the other three performed in numerous key roles with transitions that were so smoothly done that the audience immediately knew that the actor had shifted to a new character. The secondary roles of these three actors were absolutely KEY to advancing Scott’s story. “Kenny Suggins” transition to the character of Afghan Malik Jan was the only very brief point that I was unsure that a transition had occurred, but the character change became obvious in seconds.
ACTION & ACTIVITY: Scott’s story is revealed quickly, never pauses, and there are no instances of boredom. The cast clearly understood the need to have their dialogue show their characters that were definitely based on real people and actual experiences. The story was advanced carefully in a clear metaphor for the changes in Special Forces that was reflected in the tension between Team Leader (and later Lieutenant-Colonel) Smith and Team Sergeant Danny Patton as Special Forces evolved from a killing machine in Afghanistan to a villager protection program and back to killing machine that Danny was resisting due to the close bonds that he had developed with Malik Jan. Subplots within the story were key to the continuous tension during the full 85 minutes of this one-act play. Scott understood that this great story needed these to keep the middle of the story from sagging. The use of highly credible scenes ranging from saying the newborn son looked like a “possum” to wife Lynn and her suggesting a dip in the Cape Fear River were so connected to real-life events that these very short episodes set the characters up firmly in the minds of the audience.
VISUALS: The crew deserves high credit for bringing a very sparse stage to life with lights and sound effects that were absolutely perfectly planned and executed. Having the actors remaining on the sides of the stage while standing at Parade Rest while waiting for their next parts to begin was very, very powerful and effectively showed the absolute military determination of the intervention underway to get Danny Patton to Valhalla. Their silent determination and discipline added greatly to the scene visuals.
DRAMATIC SCENES: The scenes were intentionally short and this added tremendously to the urgency of the well-connected scenes that kept the story moving toward its conclusion that was not obvious until the very last few minutes. Scott and Director Ame inserted conflict and tension into nearly every scene in a manner that held the full attention of the audience.
TENSION: The most shocking and tension-filled scene had no dialogue and consisted of wife Lynn at home in North Carolina listening to the “Breaking News” on FOX as they related the loss of thirty-one Special Operators as a helicopter was shot down during a raid. Actress Ame’s slowly changing facial expression reflecting her fear that Danny could have been lost ended in a heart-breaking scream that had an equal impact on the audience as they fully understood that fear and terror wasn’t experienced only by the soldiers in combat. The impact on the audience was intentional and was very well done in this extremely emotional and intense scene.
GENERATIONAL IMPACT: Scott brought Special Forces experience in Vietnam into the story before Danny Patton advanced the story into Afghanistan as his forlorn hope that his son would not follow suit failed. Perhaps the greatest impact upon my wife who also experienced numerous absences of her husband over several decades was revealed as a very young child sang a very few lines from the Ballad of the Green Berets at the conclusion of the play as she finally broke into tears as yet another generation prepared for a highly dangerous lifestyle. This play will be greatly appreciated by families having few military connections. The military families will simply be reminded of the love and fears in their own lives.
DOL Dave Phillips