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New York Theater

Pvt. Wars

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James McLure's Pvt. Wars, which dates back to 1979, concerns three Vietnam War veterans, wounded physically and psychologically, passing their days in a V.A. hospital. This lively if not very probing revival aims — according to the program — to be part of an effort to foster greater community awareness of the problems faced by servicemen returning from Iraq. Whether Pvt. Wars fits this groove is debatable.

McLure's play is not a polemic, and that's probably a good thing. On the other hand, it offers little discussion of war's upheavals. Instead, much of it demonstrates the comic high jinks that occur as the men interact with each other. Furthermore, their specific traumas and the circumstances under which they were suffered get scant attention, except in the affecting conclusion, which illuminates one of the character's behavior and despair. There's also the acknowledgement, as the title suggests, that beyond the wounds of war, these men have their own long-enduring private demons to battle.

Natwick is the self-hating product of a wealthy family, a failed poet with suicidal tendencies. Silvio is a manic, street-smart, self-proclaimed ladies' man who's compelled to flash nurses and whose resentment of Natwick's privileged upbringing almost leads to violence. Finally there's Gately, a mild-mannered Southern farm boy who spends his time trying to repair a broken radio and attempting to escape the failures of his father.

When first presented, the play was a one-act, part of a McLure double bill, and was only later expanded into a full-length work. The effort shows. The script has numerous short scenes, some little more than a joke, leaving the feeling of an attenuated existential vaudeville. This mood is heightened by Max Montel's direction, which tends to emphasize the script's comedy rather than its darker shadings.

Within that paradigm, the three actors — Ethan Baum as Gately, Jeffry Denman as Natwick, and Chapin Springer as Silvio — make an engaging trio and bring commendable conviction to their performances.

Presented by Incumbo Theater Company at the Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond St., NYC. Jan. 25-Feb. 18. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.

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