“I’m the alive man who’s dead.”
Nathan Woodworth as Joe Bonham
To simply say that “war is hell” is a grand understatement. Hell affects not only the loved ones left behind but, especially affects, the people who fight. One such soldier trying to crush the odds is Joe Bonham. A soldier in World War I, Bonham gets seriously wounded. An amputee with half his face blown off from artillery, he lies in a hospital bed unable to speak or see. He communicates with Morse code tapping his head against the pillow to send messages. At first, the doctors and nurses don’t understand what he’s doing, let alone what is being said. One of the many night nurses manages to get through to Joe and convey to others what he’s trying to say. In his barely catatonic state, Joe is a prisoner in his body, a torso actually. He recalls when and how he got hurt. He floats between unconsciousness and reality. Everything’s is a mathematical equation. He times the nurse’s visit in seconds. He can tell, or he imagines, that one of them is middle age with soft hands and grey hair. He imagines what the rest of the medical staff looks like around him. He relieves the war in his mind. He remembers being decorated as a hero and states that he’s the “nearest thing to death.”
Blacklisted screenwriter James Dalton Trumbo (1905 – 1976) wrote the novel. It became a movie in 1971 and he also directed it. Adapted by Bradley Rand Smith and directed by Oscar-winner Tim Robbins, who is also the theater’s artistic director, does an incredible job in making the film into a successful play. The message that Trumbo put in is not lost in today’s disturbing times. Woodworth does excellent work in portraying the fierce soldier doing his best to survive the hell he’s trapped in. Woodworth exudes bravery, strength, determination and courage. He portrays Joe as someone who deserves praise, but to bashful to agree, for handling a situation that would destroy the human spirit. He fights on determined to beat the odds.
Johnny Got His Gunn plays until Saturday, November 10th on Thursday – Saturday nights at 8 p.m. at the Actor’s Gang Theater, located at 9070 Venice Blvd in Culver City. Thursday evening is “Pay What You Can.” There will be two matinee times on Sunday October 28th and November 4th at 2 p.m. For ticket information, log-on to www.The ActorsGang.com or phone 310-838-4264.