CARLSBAD — In its latest production, the Carlsbad Playreaders will bring a poetic tale of war told from the perspective of three generations of military within the same family in “Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue” at the Carlsbad Library June 17.
“The piece is extremely intriguing,” said actor John Padilla. “It’s such a beautiful story of three generations of Puerto Rican soldiers in the American Army.”
Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, author of the Broadway musical “In the Heights,” the play centers around19-year-old soldier Elliot Ortiz after he returns from Iraq and must decide whether to re-enlist for a second tour.
Ortiz, played by Steve Lone, seeks out his father, (Padilla), and grandfather, played by Spike Sorrentino, both veterans, to understand their experiences of fighting in American wars.
Padilla previously performed the same role during a production at the Ion Theatre a few years ago. He said he welcomes the opportunity to play the part again, because as a veteran he can relate to “Pop’s” experiences.
Padilla served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War for nearly five years, and had family members who served as well.
“There’s so much pride involved in being in the military and representing your country, and to me that’s what it’s all about, regardless of race or creed,” he said.
He said he remembers some of his family members trying to reach out to others to process their own wartime experiences, similar to Elliot in the play.
He said that for older generations of veterans in his family, “You were pretty much on your own. The only people you could really talk to (about war) were your family.”
Director Dori Salois was at first hesitant about the choice to perform “Elliot,” and at first, thought that the play might be “too sad.”
But she said the more she thought about the piece, the more she realized how culturally relevant its subject matter is to San Diego, with its large Hispanic population and military bases.
She said she was particularly struck by the play’s point that for a lot of young people, joining the military is the best career and economic opportunity they have.
“This young man (Elliot) says that, ‘If I wasn’t a Marine, I would be at Subway asking if you want hot peppers with that,’” she said.
Moreover, Salios and Padilla agreed that the piece lends itself well to a stage reading rather than a full production because of its small cast and minimal set.
As a stage reading, the two hope that the production will enhance the audience’s engagement with the material and actors.
“If you have the right actors and they have the right intensity and they’re committed, I think (stage readings) actually stimulate the imagination of audience,” Salios said.
“It’s just such a beautiful piece because you get to experience each character in a different way,” said Padilla about the play’s intense focus on only a few characters.
Salios added, “The piece is like music and a poem. Each memory, each character’s impression is kind of woven like a tapestry.”
Padilla said that ultimately he hopes that playgoers will, “just listen to the words and enjoy the story.”
Carlsbad Playreaders will perform “Elliott, A Soldier’s Fugue” June 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Carlsbad City Library’s Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium, 1775 Dove Lane. Suggested donations are $5 for adults and $1 for students. Visit carlsbadplayreaders.org or call (760) 602-2012 for more information.