Amlin Gray Richard Corliss - Essay

Richard Corliss

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The setting: a virtually naked stage. The cast: two men. The subject: Viet Nam. That again? Artists and con artists have spent the past decade replaying and reworking "the Viet Nam experience," reporting it and satirizing it, sending it up an apocalyptic river, holding it to our conscience like The Deer Hunter's revolver. It's over, already. We've heard that song, memorized it, sung it in our sleep, are sick unto bloody death of it.

So here [comes Amlin Gray's How I Got That Story]…. And lo, Viet Nam lives in Gray's nightmarishly funny vaudeville. A Buddhist monk sets himself ablaze; an Army lieutenant is shot in the back by his troops; a B-52 crashes in enemy territory; a Viet Nam village falls to guerrillas; Saigon orphans cry out in blind despair—and the effect is bracingly therapeutic. Talent does that, when it gels as it does here, when it infects all the participants on both sides of the footlights. How I Got That Story makes splendid use of that precious theatrical asset, the playgoer's imagination….

The beleaguered nation of Amboland welcomes a new recruit in the first years of its civil war: an innocent young reporter from Dubuque…. This Candide in khaki enters the war as a neutral observer. He believes that "if I just keep my eyes open, I can understand the whole world." He soon enough does, to his sorrow, and with the help of a dozen soldiers and civilians he meets along the Via...

(The entire section is 485 words.)