BWW Reviews: West End Players Guild's Powerful MEDAL OF HONOR RAG
Medal of Honor Rag reminds us all of the sacrifices made by those who fought for their country. Though it's set in 1971, it's relevance to today's audience is a moot point. The only shortcoming here is a certain degree of familiarity that permeates the work, and it's probably a direct result of the amount of material that's tread upon similar water over the past 40 years. However, I still consider this essential viewing because we need to remember our past so we can stop repeating the same costly mistakes.
A doctor examines a soldier name Dale Jackson (he prefers to be called DJ) who's been traumatized by his combat experience, and been laid up at the Valley Forge Army Hospital after failing to assimilate back into society since being sent home. The twist here is that the soldier is the recipient of the medal of honor; a result of heroic efforts that found him the last man standing among his unit when a battle broke out. The doctor recognizes his behavior as being symptomatic of a condition known as "survivor's grief", something he's experienced as well. But, his efforts to help DJ cure himself are undermined by his desire to see him send his medal back in an act of protest. Of course, that's the irony inherent in the medal itself. It's a double-edged sword that can bring wealth and fame, while remaining a reward, or sorts, for killing vast numbers of the enemy.
Reginald Pierre gives a powerful and ingratiating performance as DJ. Shuffling around in his bathrobe and standard hospital issue pajamas, he embodies the role fully, alternating between closed-mouth, mind-numbing frustration, and a rage tempered by his genial nature. For this play to even have a chance at connecting with it's audience, there has to be a strong actor in this part, and Pierre delivers the goods. Tom Kopp gives a solid performance playing the doctor intent on getting through to DJ. Darrious Varner amuses as an MP, bringing some measure of humor to a mostly somber and dramatic piece.
Sean Belt's direction is engaging, and the action is compelling and consistently involving. Tom Cole's one act play, Medal of Honor Rag, still resonates, but it may have lost some of it's bite because we've simply seen so many of these types of stories dramatized in various mediums. This production of Medal of Honor Rag continues through December 15, 2013 at The Missouri History Museum.