Lifestyle

Wet eyes, and sustained applause, for 'Ridgeline' at the American Legion

The cast of
The cast of 'Only a Ridgeline Away.' From left, Bristol Whalen (Donna, Bobbie), Dorian Oliver (Matthew Slater), Leslie Brennan (enemy sapper), Lynda Guernsey (Nurse Karcher), Joseph Adams (ghost of Brett Campbell), Julie Laidlaw (The General), Tony Vivenzio (Michael T. Mooney), Megan Vivenzio (Widow Betty), and Shannon Kelley Small (soldier, Casey).
— image credit: Richard Walker

There were many wet eyes during the curtain call in the American Legion Hall, downstairs, Saturday night.

Miguel Andreas Herbert's comedy-drama "Only a Ridgeline Away," about two Vietnam War veteran buddies who live together at the California State Veterans Home in Napa Valley, was staged at the Legion in its first test as an off-theater, on-the-road production.

The play is based on a real-life pact Hebert and a friend, also Vietnam War veterans, made in the 1990s. The play is dedicated to another friend, 1st Lt. Wayne Verrett, whose name is listed on Panel 58E, Row 1, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

The play was first staged at the San Juan Community Theatre in August. American Legion Commander Shannon Plummer said Saturday's one-night-only staging at the Legion took one and a half months of planning. (There is a cast of nine and a production crew of seven).

Herbert -- pseudonym of Michael Herber -- and company are raising money though donations "to bring this show to as many veterans, military, their loved ones and caregivers as possible," the program stated.

Tax-deductible donations can be made through Mary Blevins at the San Juan Community Theatre, 360-378-3211.

Journal columnist Howard Schonberger wrote of the play's debut at SJCT, "Miguel Herbert of Friday Harbor has produced a wonderfully creative play which presents the warmth, despair, humor, and fidelity of our most recent wars — so much like all the rest — but with a power that will move your heart and soul to wonder what it is going to take to make this world respect the humanity that two buddies, a nurse and a general portrayed in 'Only a Ridgeline Away.'

"Herbert spent over a year on this play, he rewrote the script some 19 times. He had bull sessions with veterans from all of our recent wars, from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, in order to get it right. I never would have believed that the Gubelman Theatre could do such a great job.

"Kudos to all: Tony Vivenzio, Dorian Oliver, Lynda Guernsey, Julie Laidlaw, the principal actors. Kudos to the rest of the cast: Joseph Adams, Bristol Whalen, Shannon Kelley Small, Megan Vivenzio and Leslie Brennan, who accented their magnificent performance so ably."

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