Reviewed by Joan Tupponce
World War II is an unmistakable time in our history, but some of the men and women that fought in the war did so in the shadows of a policy known now as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Those gay soldiers now have their own voice in the musical Yank! The WWII Musical playing at Richmond Triangle Players.
While all the characters in the play are fictional, the situations and viewpoints are pulled from memoirs and oral histories of gay and straight service members who served in World War II.
The play revolves around the discovery of a journal of Stu, a young Midwestern kid who has been drafted into the Army. Along with being naive and frightened, he is also grappling with an inner struggle around his sexual identity. When Stu meets Mitch, a member of his squad, he falls in love, but doesn’t know if that love will be returned.
Stu’s Army career takes many detours as he begins to write for the publication, “Yank,” but eventually comes back to Mitch and his squad. Stu chronicles his military adventure in a journal that eventually falls into the wrong hands, forcing Stu to take a stand and become the man he is destined to be.
The play moves at a steady pace and is never heavy-handed in its presentation. It gracefully shows the anxiety, fear, and loneliness that many soldiers faced, as well as the hidden feelings that gay soldiers experienced.
The ensemble cast bonds on stage, creating a realistic portrayal of a squad of diverse characters that has been thrown together to fight for their country.
Standouts in the production include Alex Burkart, the flamboyant Artie, who teaches Stu about the underground life of gays in the military and Georgia Rogers Farmer who cleverly portrays all of the women in the production.
Ed Hughes brings honesty to his role as Mitch, a straight man who is confused by his feelings for Stu. And Drew Colletti is perfectly cast in the role of Stu. He has a genuine sweetness about him that draws you into the story and keeps you in the moment.
Yank! The WWII Musical is a touching, often humorous musical with an important story to tell. It runs through June 13 at Richmond Triangle Players. Go here for tickets.