In DC Fidler's "Boogieban," a military psychiatrist treats a young, psychologically damaged soldier with understanding and mercy, and in the process, the younger man ends up giving the elder one a priceless gift.

The somberly poetic drama, now in its world premiere at None Too Fragile Theatre in Akron, played to a sold-out crowd that included the playwright and military consultant Maj. RJ Casey on opening night Friday. Directed by artistic director Sean Derry, the two-man show stars David Peacock of Scotland as Lt. Col. Lawrence Caplan and Travis Teffner of Morgantown, W.Va., as Spc. Jason Wynsky.

Teffner brings a touching youth and humor combined with a sense of bewilderment and suffering to his role as a soldier who has just seen combat in Afghanistan. The actor, who originated the role in West Virginia in an earlier version of the play, helps the audience see that Jason, who grew up in an unstable family, has an innate intelligence; he plays with the psychiatrist in a teasing way and anticipates the expert's questions during multiple therapy sessions.

As these characters at first dance around each other verbally and slowly learn to build trust, it's fascinating to see Peacock's Lawrence go from a very strait-laced, no-nonsense military man to one who gradually softens to reveal chinks in his own armor. 

This story, set in Lawrence's office in Washington, D.C., slowly peels away the source of Jason's nightmares. The soldier, who suffers from post-traumautic stress disorder, endures two flashbacks during counseling, one of which is highly vivid.

The sound effects are exceptional, including an explosion, machine guns and a chopper. At one point, a character flinches as he hears gunfire coming from different directions, and the audience flinches with him as the sound comes from speakers under their feet. 

Fidler, a retired professor of psychiatry who has treated soldiers suffering from PTSD, has written his latest version of the play in parallel fashion, revealing through psychiatrist Lawrence's monologues that he also is suffering from unresolved trauma that he endured in the Vietnam War. The playwright uses symbolism of a mirror multiple times to illustrate these soldiers' shared pain, separated by different wars and different eras.

"Two beings peering upon sacred stories with identical understanding, identical thoughts, identical emotions. I am a mirror for Jason, and Jason for me. We lie in bullet-splattered mud beside one another," Lawrence says in an illuminating monologue.

Director Derry told the audience before "Boogieban" started Friday that he sees this show as a ministry. The theater offered a free performance for area veterans Sunday.

The play, which None Too Fragile will take on the road for monthlong runs in Chicago and New York next year, shines a light on the realities of PTSD and the struggle for healing. It also opens the door to a greater understanding of the sacrifices that combat soldiers make for our country.

As Fidler says in a prelude to his script, "We know how to send our young to war. We know to welcome them back with parades, garlands and trumpets. We have never known how to bring home their hearts and souls."

 

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.