Review by Suzanne Birrell.
(All photos by Ed Krieger)
According to The Navy Airman's Glossary, "Shit hot" means "Extremely Good!" That being said Charles Faerber's Zulu Time, now showing at the Hudson Backstage Theatre, is "shit hot."
Zulu Time (which translates to "Greenwich Mean Time") takes place during the tempestuous 1960's, the time of Viet Nam and Civil Rights activism, and puts us aboard an aircraft carrier where testosterone and jet aviation fuel make for a volatile environment. In a hysterically funny bit we learn that flying is like sex and when all the crew is attending to their collective job to kill people who don't think like they do - it all seems surreal, much like a macabre ballet and so the play starts.
In a slow motion ballet we are introduced to the characters and their jobs. We are guided in the journey by a wise and sardonic "Mate of the Deck" played by Byron Hays who provides commentary and hope throughout the story. From him we learn that though "technology is perfectible, humans are not." Christopher T. Wood plays "Ronnie" who worries about his family in Watts as the riots begin and demands an apology when he overhears a bigoted "Page Boy," played by David Ghilardi, express a wish to "go bomb those animals." John Marzilli plays the commander "Potter" who refuses to see a need for an apology to be made and is constantly reinforcing the war ideal that their job is to kill.
Counter to the ugliness is the beauty and strength of friendships and loyalty. Trevor Larson plays "Lone Star" who recognizes the ugliness and tries to fix things. Scott Keiji Taketa plays two roles: "Yamoto-rhymes with tomato" who is willing to give up his dreams on principle and stands up against the bigots Potter and Page Boy; and the very different ghost of the Kamikaze Pilot who relieves tensions with poetic wisdom. Joe Spence is the Marine "Braddock" and Jake Hundley play "Intel," two characters who just don't really give a damn. Azquah Dansoh plays "DeMarcus," cousin to Ronnie and who is the silent observer until he can't stay silent any longer. Tony Grosz plays "Chigger," his closeted gay friend who joins the Navy because he can't make it in his home town. Ruffy Landayan plays the passionate "Bogart," the proprietor of a Philippine bar who demands respect for the ladies and is a loyal friend.
Zulu Time is a journey. The story is beautifully written. The ebb and flow of tensions and emotions is brilliant. The balance of comedy and drama is exquisite. The sound design by David B. Marling is absolutely perfect. The performances, everyone are "shit hot." Writer Charles Faerber and Director Richard Kuhlman have produced a masterpiece that should be on everyone's bucket list right up there with
Death of a Salesman and
Grapes of Wrath. It is a story written with empathy but without judgement of a time in our history that should be remembered.
Zulu Time is one of those productions where the audience is slow to leave. I spoke with the two young ladies next to me after the show. They said it was "Raw." They said they it made them realize that we haven't progressed very far as a nation. Students of history should see this to gain insight to the times. Parents and Grandparents should be bringing their offspring to see this show. It inspires dialogue. I spoke with the two young ladies for about 10 minutes.
Chuck Faerber said in his notes that he wanted to "show the contradictory ugliness and allure of a unique culture within a culture -the U.S. Naval Aviation-with its entrenched bigotry and startling meritocracy, its marriage of the technical and spiritual, its danger and, above all its overpowering beauty." I think he succeeded and more.
Zulu Time shows the power of friendship and the ability of man to change.
Zulu Time gives us hope for the future. I highly recommend this play. It is a must see. Art doesn't get any better than this.
Zulu Time is "Shit Hot!"
Friday and Saturdays @8pm
Sundays @3pm thru August 9
Hudson Backstage Theatre
6539 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038