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BEST STAGE PRODUCTION Minneapolis 2007 - Last of the Boys

The Jungle staged Steven Dietz's Vietnam hangover with a fine mix of pain and cutting humor, drawing obvious parallels to our current national situation without leaning too hard on the obvious. The show revolved around Ben (Stephen D'Ambrose) and Jeeter (Terry Hempleman), two war buddies hanging out at Ben's place in an abandoned trailer park. (Joel Sass's ornately ramshackle set design was powerful enough to make you taste dust in the back of your throat.) Jeeter arrived from Ben's father's funeral, which Ben didn't attend, and pretty soon they were picking scabs from the past. D'Ambrose, thin and pinched, simmered with tamped-down rage and disappointment, while Hempleman provided contrasting humor and the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a perpetual seeker. Heidi Bakke chipped in as Jeeter's younger girlfriend with a weird secret, and Camille D'Ambrose played her mother with an earthy capacity for violence. By the time the ghost of Vietnam architect Robert McNamara made his entrance, it felt like time was peeling back the walls. Soon enough we'll be dealing with the legacies of our current military adventures. This production gave us a head start on whatever (fractured, incomplete) catharsis awaits us.
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