THEATER REVIEW: "Disappearing Act"

A soldier who goes off to war may return a quite different person. Many veterans have PTSD; alcohol and drug abuse is common, and statistics show that 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

InnerMission Productions and playwright Delia Knight (who saw the problem first-hand when her brother returned from Iraq) give us a heart-wrenching portrayal of the after-war experience for marine Alexander (Steve Froehlich) in the world premiere of “Disappearing Act” through Dec. 20 at Diversionary Theatre’s Black Box.

The play’s title is from the Lou Reed song, which opens with this stanza:

It must be nice to disappear
To have a vanishing act
To always be looking forward
And never looking back.

Alex’s mother Vivian (Kaly McKenna), younger sister Monica (Jamie Channell Guzman) and high school girlfriend Emma (Rebecca Doyle Dorado) can’t wait to see him. But it’s a different Alex who meets them at the airport – silent, almost sullen, given to emotional outbursts on what seems no provocation, and with little trace of the joy he used to have.

The play jumps back and forth in time. In Iraq, Alex and his two buddies Buck (Salvador Velasco) and Kick (Robert Malave) trade the contents of their respective care packages from home, talk about the usual things – hunting, girls, even books (Kick notes “You’re better off getting caught with gay porn than with a book of poetry”) – and try to stay alive long enough to make it home.

Meanwhile, the women wait, hoping the men will return alive and relatively unscathed. But always, something is stalking these men, just as something is frightening the women back home.

Director Kym Pappas has a fine cast, headed by Froehlich’s damaged Alex and ably supported by Velasco’s Buck and Malave’s droll Kick.

McKenna is excellent as Alex’s concerned mother, as are Guzman as Monica and Dorado as the old flame.

Pappas has adapted the staging nicely to the small space, and Chad Oakley’s lighting adds atmosphere.

Alex speaks for many in his situation who don’t want to talk about their war experiences. “If I could just forget,” he says. “I want to disappear so I can sleep.”

“Disappearing Act” draws the viewer into difficult realities and may seem a curious choice for the holiday season, but it’s likely many families will go through a similar experience during this season.

In any case, it’s a powerful piece of theater.

The details

“Disappearing Act” plays through December 20, 2015 at Diversionary Black Box, 4545 Park Boulevard.

Showtimes: Wed.-Sat., Dec. 16-19 at 7:30 pm; Sun., Dec. 20 at 4:30 pm

Tickets: 619-324-8970 or innermissionproductions@gmail.com

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.