Center Theatre Group and the Latino Theatre Company are joining forces to bring Quiara Alegría Hudes' trilogy of plays to Los Angeles. The first, "Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue"—under the direction of Shishir Kurup— opened at the Kirk Douglas this past Saturday.
This play tells the story of Elliot Ortiz who, following in the footsteps of his Pop and Grandpop, proudly enlists in the marines, and two days after he turns eighteen, is sent into Iraq. Now home with an injury, Elliot tries to make sense of the reality of war and his new military identity.
A series of monologues tell the stories that Elliot never got to hear—the ones his Grandpop forgot and his Pop never wanted to share— about the former's time in Korea, and the latter's time in Vietnam. His mother, Ginny, shares her story of meeting his father in a military hospital that almost paints an idyllic picture of war—an image that is quickly shattered by Elliot's memories of his own experience.
Peter Mendoza is absolutely adorable as Elliot. His frequent cheeky grin perfectly captures the slightly cocky confidence of a young man ready to prove his worth. Caro Zeller plays his mother Ginny, and is captivating as a concerned mother, and charming in the retelling of her memories of being a young nurse in love. Rubén Garfias is wonderful as the gravel-voiced Grandpop, and beautifully gives us a peek into his time in Korea, and the magic of his morale-boosting music. Finally, Jason Manuel Olazábal has the tough exterior of a soldier, but lets us see his softer side by sharing some of his more painful memories from Vietnam.
The military uniforms (Raquel Barreto) clue the audience into the changing decades, as each uniform corresponds with each specific time and war. USC's own Associate Professor of Set Design, Sibyl Wickersheimer, provides the cast with a simple set of old, green army cots that transcends time and location. The backdrop of screens serve as windows into each of the character's lives, resulting in a powerful final image of Elliot, Pop, and Grandpop heading off to their respective wars.
Unexpectedly tender, and at times, heart wrenching, "Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue" is a beautiful beginning to a celebrated trilogy.
"Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue," will be playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre until February 25th. For tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 628-2772.