Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

District Theater: “Yank: A WWII Love Story”

District Theater’s “Yank: A WWII Love Story” photo by Gary Nelson

It’s hard to believe that in the past, being gay in the Army could land you three years of hard labor. This boggles my mind. How does that aspect of your life affect your ability to do your duty? If the government drafted you, they should be glad you are there anyway. But instead of just making you kill people, which is heinous enough, they also harshly punished anyone suspected of homosexual activity. This is ironic because their justification for their treatment of gay people was that homosexuality was a mental illness. So I suppose they though hard labor would cure you. In 1982, gay people were official banned from the military, and any currently serving were discharged. This remained in effect until 1993, with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which forced gay service people into the closet. Finally, in 2011, homosexuality was no longer registered as a crime.

Yank: The Musical is set during World War II. Stuart (Jonathan Krouse) is starting basic training, and he keeps a journal, which he plans to publish once the war is over. Stuart is immediately drawn to one of the men in his squad, Mitch (Tanner Brunson). But Stuart is confused and awkward. He doesn’t really understand or acknowledge the feelings he has. Mitch takes a shine to Stuart as well, and semi-innocently flirts with him in a nebulous sort of way. Until the kiss. And things go downhill from there. Stuart is given an out by joining up with Yank Magazine under the guidance of Artie (D. Scott Robinson), who shows him the ins and outs (so to speak) of being gay in the military.

District Theatre: “Yank: A WWII Love Story.” photo by Gary Nelson

This is a superlative show in its acting, singing, and emoting. You are sincerely invested in the fates of these young men — even the auxiliary characters. From funny to heart wrenching, the show runs the gamut, and the musical numbers are iconic. The production is engrossing, and the performances are standing ovation worthy.

Brunson has a dreamy voice that is reminiscent of 1940s crooners, whereas Krouse’s equally talented chords sing to us in a much more mellow way that reflects his personality. A personality that we see grow from an introverted klutz to a man assured of his worth in the world. That’s some serious character growth.

Authentic historical slides take the place of a backdrop, which I found to be much more effective, reminding us that this is more than just a story — the war was a real, catastrophic event.

Under director Tim Spradlin, Krouse, Brunson, Robinson, Jessica Hawkins (as literally Every Woman), Isaac Becker, Dominic Piedmonte, Scott Fleshood, Joshua Cox, Bryant Mehay, Jerry Beasley, Lance Gray, and Kevin Bell, with vocal director John Phillips and a live orchestra, have created a show that will take you back in time. It’s a love story that reminds us where we’ve been, where we are, and that we still have a ways to go.

  • Through March 24, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
  • $25 general admission; $20 seniors & students; $15 for active & retired military (with ID)



freelance editor, writer, and theater critic

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