Captivating Wartime Storytelling at Parson’s Nose Theater

“As You Were; Stories & Songs for GIs in WWII” Theatre Review by Alisa Hayashida

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If you were a young soldier during World War II, you would have been issued a knapsack book called “As You Were”, an anthology of stories and poems by American writers that was put together by famous writer and drama critic Alex Woollcott. It is from this collection that artistic director Lance Davis has culled stories and songs that transport us to a lonely barrack, overseas, where we are carried away, as a soldier might have been, into the world of these touching scenes.

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Five brilliant actors give dramatic readings in front of a simple, realistic barrack designed by Jen Orsini, using music stands, their commanding voices and their agile bodies to bring these adventures to life; a full tilt race up the coast of South America on a sailing ship bound for Boston; the story of a working girl far from home trying to make a go of it in the big city; a boisterous tale of Mark Twain’s rapscallions floating down the river with Huck Finn; the insidious rise of fascism exquisitely told in the form of letters between two friends and finally, odes to the American worker by Walt Whitman.

Jill Rogosheske and Marisa Chandler are charming and pitch perfect in their readings of various characters at once and their voices blend beautifully on the classic Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Chandler is tender and heartbreaking as the young woman in The Skylight Room by O. Henry and takes you back to the 1930s with her beautiful rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You”. The three men in the cast, James Calvert as Huck Finn, Lance Davis as The King and Paul Perri as The Duke, are having a ball in the retelling of Mark Twain’s story of the scoundrels’ swindle down the river. Perri uses his booming voice to great effect while Lance Davis makes a twitchy, scalawag of a “King”. Calvert’s Huck is clearly enjoying the entire endeavor, but he is also incredibly sincere in his observations of Jim.

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The second act is a brilliant display of character arc as told through heartfelt, zealous and ultimately painful letters between two dear friends, one in San Francisco and one in Germany during the lead up to the war. Barry Gordon and Paul Perri are quietly devastating as the two men. Luckily we are brought up and out of the depths of the pain of war by some good old fashioned American folk songs that segue into a sing-along with the audience. Once again, Parson’s Nose triumphs as a unique, theatrical & community experience.

“As You Were: Stories and Songs For GIs in WWII” is playing through May 8, Saturdays and Sundays. Check the website for ticket info and to find out more about Parson’s Nose www.parsonsNose.com (626) 403-7667. “Pay What You Will” $5-$20. Reservations encouraged. (Ages 12+) Lineage Performing Arts Center located at 89 South Fair Oaks in Old Town Pasadena. Ample parking in nearby lots and structures. And don’t forget the delicious homemade treats they serve by Pat Bell!

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