In 2003 adapters Dave Stinton and Jen Ellison turned John Huston's 1946 documentary about shell-shocked WWII vets in a military hospital into a play for WNEP Theater. No easy task, considering that most of the film's drama is in the soldiers' heads and that the "miracles" Huston documents--many of them achieved through hypnosis or talking cures--look naive today. Ellison (who also directed) and Stinton managed to turn this cinematic curiosity into an elegant, intelligent, riveting evening of theater without employing a shred of camp, the usual choice for theatricalizing a cult film. Together they and a cast of energetic, committed actors vividly revealed the quiet and not-so-quiet desperation of young soldiers traumatized by war: one stutters incessantly, another has lost the use of his legs for no apparent reason, and a third has forgotten everything except his name; even a memory of his mother turns out to be a half-remembered picture from a magazine. After an extended run at WNEP's old space on Halsted, the show had a triumphant stint at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival, and as performed by the original cast in this remount it's only become tighter and more intense, delivered with added confidence and authority. Sadly, how soldiers cope--or fail to cope--with postwar wounds is even more relevant today than it was 18 months ago. Through 3/26: Thu-Sat 8 PM. Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark, 773-755-1693. $15-$18; half price for veterans.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Don Hall.