Apocalypse Now, based on the Francis Ford Coppola film, is set during the Vietnam War and examines the impact violence has on a man’s soul. Director Shane Inman adapted the story for the stage and has done a masterful job of capturing the fear and confusion that afflicts the soldiers who are asked to fight an unseen enemy in a place far from home.
In the story, Captain Benjamin Willard (Zach Gibb) is ordered to track down and kill the brilliant but elusive Colonel Walter Kurtz (Rob LeBeau), who has gone insane. Willard and his squad, which includes Chief Phillips (Dale Miller), Jay “Chef” Hicks (Robert Douglas Silva), Lance Johnson (Jake Eldred) and Tyler “Clean” Miller (Chloe Anderson), make their way up a river in pursuit of Kurtz. Along the way there are firefights and a tense encounter with some Vietnamese peasants.
Gibb is appropriately cynical and hard-edged as Willard, a man tortured by his own war experiences. When we first see him, he is anxiety-ridden and seems ready to go over the edge. Willard is asked to take the life of a man he has never met and has no real chance of understanding.
Kurtz’s journey has been a tragic one, filled with pain and residue from the horror of war. LeBeau shines in an impassioned monologue where Kurtz asks Willard not to judge him.
A fine performance also is given by Chris Brostrup-Jensen as the gung-ho Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, who believes combat is an amusement. Kilgore doesn’t seem to realize there is a human cost to war. This is typified when he speaks the famous line: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Another colorful figure is a drugged-out photojournalist (Bart Hollingsworth) who informs Willard about Kurtz.
The technical aspects of the production, such as the lighting and sound effects, are convincing and plunge us into this eerie world we will not soon forget.
Apocalypse Now runs through December 11. Swamp Meadow Community Theatre. For more information, swampmeadow.org.