California Lutheran’s Theatre Arts Dept
141 Memorial Parkway, Thousand Oaks, CA
November 11 – November 22, 2015
American revolutionary Thomas Paine said that “an army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.” California Lutheran Theatre Arts Department’s latest offering, “Under Fire” takes aim the hearts and minds of its audiences by reflecting the common struggle of those who have answered the call to protect those principles we enjoy every day.
Playwright, director and Vietnam veteran Michael Arndt has brought together a script and cast that harmonizes beautifully to hit a single, universal chord: regardless of the war, the year or level of the sacrifice, the guiding principles of the soldier have remained steady throughout the ages.
“Under Fire” doesn’t complicate its delivery with elaborate costume changes, set pieces or complex sequences. Instead it fills every inch of stage with bodies at attention, and utilizes crafty silhouette and shadow designed to imply rather than overtly state. The result is a harmonious balance of choreography, lighting, script and acting that fires on all cylinders. Its multi-media approach, projecting footage of the real people whose stories the play is based upon, speaks as loud as the RPG or Huey that buzzes thru the theatre’s crisp sound system.
No need to mike these actors; their stories speak loud and clear. Based on the real experiences of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq veterans, audience members watch generations of young faces enter basic training with an earnest sense of hope. Soon we see them shed their skins of naiveté and innocence for a jacket of responsibility toward their country and one another.
Here, Arndt hasn’t just enlisted 22 actors. The cast of “Under Fire” were united not only by want of a role in a production. Accepting a part came with a price. They assembled for cadence drills and the same hard physical work that their predecessors would have experienced at the hands of a retired Marine. And there are no starring roles in “Under Fire;” rather, a company of actors are simply assigned letters instead of names. “Under Fire” is truly an ensemble piece.
The set maximizes every inch of space. What seems like a corrugated outbuilding become backlit so actor’s shadows can dance and twist accordingly while a tale is told. Jeff Wallach’s choreography and Gary Mintz’s lighting blend evenly to set a mood then take right off again.
Perhaps it’s no accident that third on the list of credits is military trainer David Lopez. The cast of “Under Fire” are so thoroughly disciplined by Lopez and Arndt’s influence that one need only watch them reenact the joy of ‘mail call’ as soldiers, then stick around after the show to see a stagehand arrive with the actors phones in a Tupperware container. Each member then breaks from the ranks they’ve formed and the responsibilities shouldered for their 21st century mail-call. Soon they’re checking precious messages and updates in the real world where, let’s face it, the rest of us have it comparatively easy.
It is one more reminder that, in “Under Fire,” our American principles and comfortable real worlds are allowed to continue when others shoulder the responsibilities we may not be able to take upon ourselves. The cast, crew, and staff have done a near-perfect job of reminding us just how sweet a night at the theatre can be.
CLU’s Theatre Arts Department
141 Memorial Pkwy, Thousand Oaks, CA
November 11 – November 22
Tickets: 805-493-3452 or http://www.callutheran.edu/theatrearts