Theater Review: 'Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret’

By: 
Ben Miles

Like other professionals, professional soldiers are oath-bound to perform their duties. Beholden to the intractable wars that the U.S. has been steeped in for the bulk of the 21st century a phrase of respect has worked its way into the American vernacular and is directed toward military veterans: “Thank you for your service.” But few of us truly grasp what that “service” entails in terms of sacrifice. Some of the scars of service are physically visible, while other wounds are psychological and not easily seen or known.

“Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret” — a new play by the retired Green Beret veteran, Scott Mann, who also plays the protagonist, Master Sergeant Danny Patton — puts the wreckage of war in the context of our country’s longest war (still underway after two-decades) in Afghanistan, while also intertwining metaphysics, mythology and military tradition in to the plot line.

Ame Livingston ably directs “Last Out” while also characterizing several roles in the staging. Indeed, an ensemble of four actors — which also include Bryan Bachman and Leonard Bruce — embody an array of personas (thirteen distinct individuals, to be numerically correct) and invoke a spreadsheet of emotions in this nearly two and-a-half hour drama. Interestingly, each performer has a connection to the U.S. Military, either, like Mr. Mann, as a service member or, as is the case with Ms. Livingston, through a family member’s service.

With unnerving sound and visual effects — gunfire, explosions, and a disorienting swirl of conditions and events — it’s as if the struggles being encountered by the war-weary soldiers are our own. Thankfully, the presentational attributes of “Last Out” allows the audience the leeway of some aesthetic distance and, therefore, an appreciation of the theatricality of the staging. Yet the emotions conveyed are true and truly unsettling.

But it is the telling of the story in the tradition of Greek tragedy that playwright Mann has sublimated his battle fatigue and has found catharsis. Torn between life and death, Mann’s character is often in a never-land caught between his longing for the love of family and his call to service. As General William Sherman once described it: War is Hell. And though the technology of war has changed greatly since General Sherman’s oft quoted remark, the truth of the General’s statement remains an in tact fact, whether it’s the Civil War of the 1860s or the seemingly unending wars of the 21st century, war and hell appear synonymous. 

“Last Out” is currently on 20-city national tour. Right now anyone can access “Last Out” via YouTube.

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