Review by Stephanie Schwartz
P.O.W. is Irving A. Greenfield’s telling of the long-term effects of a Vietnam war experience. Director Laurie Rae Waugh continues to have a deft hand guiding her actors through Greenfield’s complex script.
Ken Coughlin plays Sidney Pollack with credibility and sincerity causing increasing sympathy for his character. While under attack in Vietnam, Pollack, the platoon leader executes a shocking action which still haunts him, even though he continues to believe it “was the right thing to do.” Pollack, now a professor of English wrote a short story about the incident which involved euthanasia. When he reads his story to his class, his Machiavellian and self-righteous department chair enlists the aid of her lover, a NYCPD detective. She wants Pollack to be arrested for murder, which will aid her academic ambitions. Victoria Christie plays the Meagan, self-serving Amanda Howell. Ms. Christie’s portrayal is sharp, pointed and effectively hateful. Robert Gordon is the likable lover, Anthony J. Gallo, who reluctantly complies with Amanda’s request in the hope of achieving his own goal. Mr. Greenfield shows how politics in academia is no different nor less vicious than politics in other arenas.
During the Court Martial in Act II, Pollack reads a letter he wrote to his dying sister Rose, to whom he sent a copy of his story. He tried to explain his actions, thus taking the topic of euthanasia off the military battlefield into civilian life. This idea could have been expressed more succinctly and clearly.
Pollack’s wife Laurie played sympathetically by Amy Losi was kind, loving and supportive. She was tortured by the negative and destructive relationship with their son Murray, played with appropriate, controlled nastiness by Harrison Benjamin. This character and the conversations about him was an unnecessary distraction and did not advance the main story.
Greenfield wrote good, clear supporting characters. The cast helpfully fleshed out the situations. Alan Charney convincingly played a helpful military defense attorney while Mike Durrell gave a strong performance as the more powerful defense attorney. Nick Pascarella was a cold, routine prosecutor and Ted Montouri gave a valuable performance as a witness for the defense. A.J. Converse played a courtroom guard.
It was difficult to understand the opening dialogue because Pollack and his wife were seated opposite each other at a small table. Their voices were directed to each other and not toward the audience. This problem was corrected as they moved across the stage. The lights came down at the end of each scene. The audience applauded. This broke the continuity and caused some uncertainty for the audience. Bringing the lights to half would have been more effective until the end of Act I.
The production was generally satisfying. The script needs to be tightened to be more successful.