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Reviewed by Tony Kiss
Entertainment Editor, Asheville Times (North Carolina)

The Vietnam War, and how it destroys an average middle-class family, is the focus of a riveting new drama now getting its world premiere at the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater in Mars Hill.

New Truck for Paulie, by Sean O’Connor, is first-rate.  And it’s intense stuff.  The fine cast, directed by William Gregg, gives all.   Tony Medlin is tremendous as the boozing, obnoxious father, set in his old-fashioned ways, and completely behind the Vietnam War, no matter what it costs his family.

Randy Noojin gives a powerful performance as the oldest son, just returned from the war with a deep, dark secret–and now protesting that awful mess.

There’s nice support all the way around, especially from Pem Price-Medlin as the newly liberated mother and wife and Lynn Nihart as the younger son, desperately trying to compete with his brother.

The time and place: late fall 1969 in suburban New Jersey.  The Parcells family has been knocked for a loop–the oldest son Paulie (Noojin) has vanished while fighting in Vietnam.

Suddenly, paulie returns, with vague explanations, and obviously hiding some secret. But this family has plenty of other problems.

Father Gus (Medlin) can’t tolerate his son’s opposition of the war, ignores younger son NIcky (Nihart), and tangles with wife Jeannie (Price-Medlin), who’s yearning to be more than his personal servant.

The brothers are in conflict, too. Both are in love with Julie (Julie Roayal), who was Paulie’s girlfriend first, but has been seeing Nicky while the older brother was away.

The situation gets hotter and hotter, with yelling, screaming, slapping and harsh language, finally leading to a horrible betrayal in act two, as the family self-destruicts. The play finally concludes on somewhat of an upbeat note.  Happy ending, though, it is not.  But one gets the feeling this worthy, archetypal family will survive.

O’Connor’s play completely zooms in on this moment of history and the family trapped within. It’s an exhilarating yet devastating experience. He spares no punches.  This one is certainly not for the weak of heart.

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