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Gherty’s performance main reason to celebrate ‘5th of July’

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For his role as Kenneth Talley Jr. in Lanford Wilson's "5th of July," senior Collin M. Gherty mastered many things.

He perfected the cynicism of a pacifist turned Vietnam War veteran. He aptly learned the fearful mentality possessed by many veterans who are unsure of their role in the world they left behind.

Most striking, though, is Gherty's capacity to clearly portray Kenny's post-war disability: two prosthetic legs.

Gherty's sheer talent and acting ability are the focal point of Wilson's play, which gives viewers a glimpse of 1960s radicals who are forced to come to terms with the fact taht their optimism went unshared by the rest of society.

There's Kenny, who can't quite bring himself to start teaching again now that he's returned from the war. His live-in lover Jed (played by sophomore Nathan Miller) tries to be supportive but can't always cope with a partner who wants to turn his back on life.

Three people from Kenny's radical past have gathered at the Talley farm in Lebanon, Mo., for Independence Day (among other things). June (senior Jenny Jeep), Kenn's sister and a former hippie; John (junior Hunter Ratliff), the overly-suave opportunist; and Gwen (junior Jen Mikhail), John's flighty, wannabe-song-stress wife.

Although Wilson's play is both clever and thought-provoking – his intelligent musings on what happened to baby boomers following the Vietnam War are sprinkled with witty references to "A Picture of Dorian Gray" and Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" – Gherty is the only actor who brings any real believability to the stage. The weight of his character's burden is carried with such grace that it's almost trying to watch the remainder of the cast amuse themselves with how "cool" it is to be prancing around onstage with feathered hair and lesiure suits.

While Jeep and Miller bring more believability to their roles than fellow supporting actors Ratliff and Mikhail, even they are overacting, putting forth forced performances that wrench viewers out of the plot every time Gherty beings to draw them back in.

Sophomore Megan Mulherin as June's daughter Shirley is interesting to watch, as her character dramatically flounces from one end of the stage to the other, talking about what a star she'll someday be. Senior John Bobek – a talented Helfaer staple – is underused as John and Gwen's stoned sidekick. His short supply of lines provide a bit of comic relief throughout the show.

David R. Krajec's set design is fantastic. During the first act, the stage is the inside of the house, with a screened-in porch around the edge; the stage is completely altered for the second act, with the porch and yard becoming the centerpiece and the house's interior now at the outside.

Director Debra Krajec utilized the set quite well, maneuvering characters between the variou aspects of the stage.

Although the whole of the acting is not above average, Gherty's performance is not just above but well beyond anything that could be called average.

Grade: C

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