Midway through Actor Under Fire, I realized that I was, in fact, watching a performance. Writer and actor James Gleason is so warm and comfortable that it took me by surprise that I was in a theatre and not, as I had felt, in a living room listening to my own grandfather’s stories of Vietnam.
Gleason’s one-man-show tells of his time in Vietnam. From his attempt to escape the draft by joining the priesthood, to his eventual self-discovery as a member of the touring troupe of actors entertaining the troops. From boot camp, to being cast in Neil Simon’s Star Spangled Girl, Gleason shares his bond with both the soldiers fighting the war, and with the Vietnamese people themselves.
Gleason’s first hand account of the war is humorous, although one can’t help but feel he skipped over some of the more grisly details to maintain the light-hearted feel of his narrative.
Much like your own grandfather, Gleason’s storytelling tends to drag out and get repetitive, but there is something about his ability to connect with his audience that puts him in a league of his own when it comes to one-man-shows.
Direction by Anita Khanzadian keeps him active and helps to distinguish his different characters, but the use of sporadic lights and sound effects distracts and takes away from Gleason’s homespun quality.