If 1967 was the Summer of Love then Karl Gajdusek’s San Francisco circa 1999 could be called the winter of our discontent. FUBAR, Gajdusek’s darkly comic play, skillfully directed by Kathleen Bosworth at the Flying H Group, revolves around characters grasping at sanity. An acronym first used during World War II, FUBAR stands for f*ed up beyond all recognition. And, boy, are they ever. While the setting isn’t a battlefield, the warfare is real. Battle lines are drawn between friends, lovers, the past and present, and all are their own worst enemies.
FUBAR’s central characters are Mary and David (Julie Fergus and Brian Robert Harris) a married couple who move into Mary’s childhood home after her mother commits suicide. Boxes belonging to Mary’s mother are stacked high, and to say they’re loaded is an understatement. But what’s inside the boxes isn’t nearly as interesting as what’s lurking within each character, fighting to get out.
Brian Robert Harris (above) and Jessi May Stevenson are part of a wonderful ensemble cast in Flying H Group’s staging of FUBAR. Photos by: Maria Rojas
The play opens as David visits his old friend Richard (Ron Feltner), a veritable one-stop shop of recreational drugs. David is drawn into Richard’s world, but what he finds most intoxicating is Richard’s lover (Jessi May Stevenson), Sylvia. Meanwhile, as if trying to come to grips with her mother’s suicide isn’t painful enough, Mary is brutally attacked. Bruised and battered, she goes to a gym and meets D.C. (Stan McConnell), a boxer who teaches her how to protect herself. This sets up an interesting twist as the characters collide, forced to deal with the past and face the future.
The ensemble cast is wonderful. Each one embodies his or her role with raw, visceral emotion, and no one ever holds back. The characters of FUBAR are damaged and it is a credit to the talented cast and Bosworth that each one is so nuanced. They all ride a different roller coaster through bravado, lust, pain, jealousy, grief, love, hate, fear and relief. In other words, a day in San Francisco.
The video projections, created by Bosworth, do more than just provide ambience and a sense of place; they play an integral role in the action, almost as a character would. As set designer, Taylor Kasch deftly transforms the black box theater into an apartment, a gym, a city street and a hospital. The powerful graffiti on the wall, created by Richard Duncan, captures the rawness of the material. The lighting, operated by Steve Snider, not only helps to elucidate the mood of the setting but of the characters themselves. Costumes by Brenda Evans, ranging from slouchy depressive to hipster chic and hippie formal, help bring the characters vividly to life. The stunt coordination by Chad Parker and set staging by Paula Maxwell create an almost balletic feel to the characters’ movements. It is, however, an emotional dance that is at the core of FUBAR. The characters dodge and weave, jabbing and lashing out at each other. Like watching a train wreck, you can’t look away from this inspired production, and the memory of it will linger long after the lights come up.
FUBAR through Feb. 14 at Flying H. Group Theatre Company, 6368 Bristol Road, Ventura, For more information, call 901-0005 or visit www.flyinghgroup.com.