‘Basetrack Live’ looks at the sacrifices of war
Paul Hyde, [email protected]:52 p.m. EST November 9, 2016
War abroad — and at home — is brought to vivid life on stage in “Basetrack Live,” the production arriving at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre on Tuesday.
The documentary play tells the story of Marines fighting in Afghanistan while their families struggle to keep body and soul together back home.
At the center of the play is A.J., a young man who finds new purpose in life by joining the Marines.
A.J.’s story is dramatized on stage against the backdrop of video testimonials and photography featuring other members of the First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, which was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2010.
“Everything that takes place in the play is pulled from real life,” said Christopher Boucher, who plays A.J.
The play, by Edward Bilous, focuses not only on the combat experience but also allows military spouses and other family members to tell their stories.
“You get to see what the spouses and families go through when a family member is deployed,” Boucher said, speaking by phone during a tour stop in West Palm Beach, Florida. “You see how they struggle, stay in touch and keep the relationship alive.”
The play’s characters are neither heroes or victims. Instead, the show tries to offer a sensitive portrayal of how war affects us all.
“It shows the impact of war,” Boucher said. “It doesn’t preach, which I like. It presents the reality of the soldiers. It shows the good: the camaraderie, the sense of a purpose. But it shows the bad as well.”
As the play begins, A.J. is young man who drops out of high school and spends his time drinking and doing drugs.
One day, he decides to get his life in order — and he joins the Marines.
“He explains what drew him into the military,” Boucher said. “He was dealing with a rough period in his life. He didn’t have a lot of guidance and direction. But then he had a watershed moment.”
The play also explores the difficulties some soldiers have adjusting to civilian life.
A.J. says at one point: “When I was in Afghanistan, all I wanted to do was come back to America. But when I got home to America, there was this empty feeling, and I just wanted to go back to Afghanistan.”
The play is a collaboration between the award-winning theater company En Garde Arts and corpsmen from the First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment.
In addition to Boucher as A.J., the play features an actress who plays A.J.’s wife Melissa, and a musician who plays piano and trumpet and mixes recorded music on the spot.
The New York Times called the play “riveting” and “a powerfully moving work,” adding, “The images of Afghanistan often have a hypnotic beauty, and the music brings a consoling warmth to even the grimmer passages.”
The show features an after-show talkback with the cast and community members.
“To me the best part is getting to talk to the audience afterward and seeing how the play impacts them,” Boucher said. “We get a fair number of military veterans and families of veterans. Especially some of the spouses feel like they’ve really been paid attention to, and gotten credit for their sacrifices.”
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YOU CAN GO
What: En Garde Arts: Basetrack Live
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Peace Center Gunter Theatre
Information: 864-467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org