By BRIAN HAWKINS
One might think it’s coincidental that the second week of Starkville Community Theatre’s current production of Stephen Metcalfe’s play “Strange Snow” is falling during the week of Veteran’s Day, but if local folks are looking at an alternative way to remember those who have fought in America’s wars, they should look no further than this affecting production.
“Strange Snow” is a bit of a departure for SCT. While SCT has successfully staged dramas before, never has one been more topical given the times in which we live.
“Strange Snow” explores what happens to members of our military after they’re done fighting and have resumed their lives back home.
But as audience members quickly find though two of the characters — Joseph “Megs” Megessey and David Flannigan, two Vietnam War veterans ably portrayed by Thomas La Foe and Christopher Walrath, respectively — veterans of war very rarely can leave their experiences behind them.
They also process their experiences in very different ways, as we find throughout the course of the show. Set in 1981, the opening of the show finds Megs and David, who served together in Vietnam, reconnecting for a planned trout fishing trip.
When we first meet Megs, he’s a bundle of nervous energy as he arrives at the home of David and his spinster-ish sister, Martha, to pick up David for the fishing trip. Megs, on the surface, appears to be ever the optimist.
Played by Maggie Spann, Martha, we find, is a shy high school teacher with very little self-confidence in social settings. As she interacts with Megs at the beginning of the show, we soon see she has a spark to her.
Her brother, however, has very little spark left for life, other than those that come from a cigarette and the relief he finds in numerous cans of beer or the bottle of whiskey he keeps stashed in the kitchen cabinet.
As we soon discover, the two veterans were originally part of a trio of Army buddies during the war. Their friend, Bobby, was killed during a mission in which both Megs and David were injured.
It is the circumstances of Bobby’s death that, in different ways, haunts Megs and David.
Megs, for the most part, has been able to put Bobby’s death behind him and move forward with his life, though somewhat timidly socially. Still, he has never forgotten his friend’s passing.
David uses alcohol to block out the pain he feels and has never been able to face the pain of losing Bobby. When he and Megs reconnect and set the fishing trip — an outing about which David forgets in a drunken stupor — he’s forced to face what happened, as is Megs.
In a powerful way, both veterans portray how wounds — both physical and psychological — can heal, but scars never go away.
La Foe and Walrath both give powerhouse performances in their portrayals of Megs and David. I won’t give away what happens, but I will say that several moments in the second act are very emotional and moved multiple audience members to tears.
Spann gives a strong performance as the sister who copes with her brother’s issues and as the romantic interest who helps Megs complete his own healing process. Her character is one with whom many can identify.
Director Paula Mabry has crafted a moving theater experience that proves to be extremely thought-provoking. With Veterans’ Day this week, it serves as a reminder of the price that is often paid by those in our military. For that, Mabry, her cast and crew deserve extra kudos. The fruits of their labor deserve to be seen.
“Strange Snow” continues its run at the Playhouse on Main with performances at 7:30 p.m. daily today through Saturday. Parents should be warned: This is a production which contains frank depictions of alcohol use and some profanity in the dialogue. This is not a show for children and young teens.
To make reservations for tickets, call the SCT Box Office at 323-6855 or stop by between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday or between 2 and 5 p.m. Thursday.