Corps Values

Corps Values

Author: Brendon Bates

Description: A father and son go head-to-head when the latter returns home from serving in Iraq and announces he is going AWOL.
Year Written/Copyrighted: 2006
Date Added: 6/15/2011
Content Advisory: NA
Keywords: Single Set · War
This play is in the following collections: FringeNYC 2006
1 Act

Read an excerpt

NOTE: Corps Values is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to bcwproductions2@gmail.com..

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Original Production Information

Corps Values was first presented by Winsor Productions, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival in 2006 at Classic Stage Company, with the following cast and credits:

Col. Kyle Adamson: Christopher McHale
Wade Taylor: Tom Stechschulte
Casey Taylor: Joe Curnutte
Capt. Samko: Aaron Mathias
Agent Dunn: Brett Andres
Sgt. Wilson: Marc Bovino
Agent Conner: Todd Estrin
Agent Galley: Andrew Jessop

Directed by: Susan W. Lovell
Set Design: Josh Zangen
Lighting Design: Jennifer Schriever
Sound Design: Matt Kraus
Costume Design: Sarah Sophia Turner
Fight Choreography: Randy Spence
Makeup Design: Erin Andréa
Prop Master: Elsama Colón
Production Stage Manager: Ritchard Druther


ITN Review by Martin Denton

Plays that confront serious issues with clarity and compassion are all too rare these days; probably, they always were. Corps Values, the FringeNYC entry by the fine young playwright Brendon Bates, is such a play; in its clash of father and son over fundamental values, it echoes the classic works of Arthur Miller, and it wouldn't surprise me if a savvy theatre company or TV/film producer jumped right on this solid, provocative script and took it to the next level, and to the broader audience it deserves.

Corps Values takes place in November 2004, in the western Pennsylvania home of Wade Taylor. Wade was a Marine lieutenant who served valiantly in Vietnam, where one of his missions was to blow up a bridge that was sheltering four of his comrades-in-arms; he chose duty over mercy and sacrificed their lives for his country's cause. Three decades later, Wade's son Casey is serving in Iraq, also with the USMC, where he has just seen brutal action in Fallujah. When Casey is granted some leave to attend his mother's funeral—for she has just been killed, in a car accident—he makes the startling pronouncement that he is not returning to battle. He is going AWOL, he tells his father, and he's going to appear at an anti-war rally in Washington, DC, so that people will know why; he'd rather serve time in the federal penetitary than be part of a war he no longer believes in or understands.

At the heart of Corps Values is a face-off between Wade and Casey, two stubborn, bitter men who try hard to make each other understand each other's point of view. It's a battle of ideals, but it's also deeply personal: the man Casey was before Iraq and the man he has become since are both firmly entrenched in the shadow and legacy of the man Wade turned into after his own war experiences. Bates is canny in letting us hear all the sides of a complicated argument that involves notions of patriotism, loyalty, service, and fatherhood —all the elements of that abstract and ultimately paltry idea of "being a man." He doesn't judge his protagaonists, but rather lets us hear them, vigorously and insightfully, as we try to make sense of an American Dream that may have gone badly awry.

Wrapped around the father/son debate is a mystery story, as Wade's one-time buddy, now a bigwig in the USMC, tries to figure out what happened to Casey and to the recruiting officer who went to Wade's house to counsel him, as well as two other officers who have since gone missing.

Bates has written a taut, exciting drama that nicely balances the mundane and everyday with vivid depictions of the horrors of battle and equally forceful statements pro and con the need for war. Director Susan W. Lovell has cast the piece sharply, with particularly outstanding performances delivered by Tom Steschulte as Wade, Joe Curnutte as Casey, and Aaron Mathias as Captain Samko, the recruiting officer who has disappeared. Corps Values is vibrant and necessary theatre, and should be essential Fringe-going for those who care about serious drama.

reviewed at the 2006 New York International Fringe Festival


ITN Review by Julie Congress

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Lynne McCollough, Erin Treadway, Brian White & Tanis Rivera Lepore | Hunter Canning

Leaving the theatre after The Twelfth Labor is like reluctantly waking up from a dream. For over two and a half hours, playwright Leegrid Stevens transports us into another world - a small post World War II Idaho farm. We see through another set of eyes, hear through another set of ears, dream through another’s dreams. This is, in my opinion, the greatest gift a play can offer - not to mention that the show is seamlessly directed, beautifully designed and features devastatingly honest, powerful performances.

October 15, 1949. Cleo informs her siblings that daddy is coming home today. She knows this on account of a dream she had. Little by little we learn that daddy has been gone since 1941, taken prisoner by the Japanese and somewhere half a world away. We also see that Cleo is something quite special - she has confusion with certain speech sounds, is deemed slow by others, yet possesses an enigmatic prophetic quality. The play unfolds forward and back from Cleo’s mind - a beautifully shifting landscape that dances between the natural and the surreal - so that we never quite know where we are headed, as the story and characters envelope us.

Esther (mama) has a face of granite and a spine of steel. She has been running the farm in her husband’s absence, the only way to ensure her family’s survival. As strong and unsentimental as she is, she has somehow been unable to beat that same strength into her children. Cruce, Cleo’s brother, is lame in one leg after an accident with a horse; pretty sister Donna can only think of boys and romance; and young little Herk is perpetually getting in trouble with Esther, despite Cleo’s protection. Through Cleo’s lense, secrets reveal themselves and we see and hear the moments that formed each of these people into who they are now.

Inspired by the twelve labors of Hercules, Stevens’ epic family drama flows so naturally and freely from its source material that it was only in retrospect, for me at least, that I began to gently align the labors to the plot. More evident is the source material drawn from the classic movies of the time - The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and Abbott & Costello.

Director Matt Torney expertly allows a pacing that both holds our attention with plenty of natural rhythmic shifts to keep us alert and allows the all-star cast of eleven to breathe and take the time needed to bring honesty to their roles. Erin Treadway is stunning as Cleo - she does not portray “special needs” nor a series of symptoms nor rely on cliches, but instead brings to life an utterly unique young woman in all of her complexity, whose reality and emotions shift ever so subtly with every breath. Whenever Lynne McCollough, as Esther, is onstage it feels as though the small theatre cannot contain her - her power, even in stillness, is palpable and every action, no matter how disagreeable it may be to us, is completely justified in this resilient matriarch’s mind. Jed Dickson, delivering a tour-de-force monologue, embraces simplicity and provides a vital reminder for our modern age that well-spoken words can still be trusted to vividly tell a story.

Set Designer Carolyn Mraz’s impressive wooden house frame and Costume Designer Nicole Wee’s period outfits ground the production in a time gone by, while Leegrid Stevens’ subtle sound design reminds us of our unique vantage point within this world from Cleo’s memories and imagination.

I was already a huge admirer of Leegrid Stevens’ work - I directed a production of his Sun Stand Thou Still in college and was blown away by Spaceman - but The Twelfth Labor has solidified him in my mind as one of the most brilliant playwrights (and probably my favorite) writing today. But don’t take my word for it - The Twelfth Labor runs until October 11, so go visit with Cleo and her family yourself!

(Sep 27, 2014)