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Joe was noodling over several script ideas when he kept coming back to scenes of and commentary on war – classic wars, and wars in our time (perhaps inspired by, oh I don’t know, maybe THE WAR IN IRAQ!!) He kept thinking of the young men, boys in many cases, who have always had to fight whatever wars were happening, embodied by his own son, Travis, now an of-age potential fighting machine.

That became SOLDIER BOY, and while he was refining it, and thinking about its possibility for production, he brought back an old idea he’d been sitting on; the care and treatment of show animals, i.e. performing chimpanzees. Joe had worked at the St. Louis Zoo as a kid, and got to poke around behind the scenes of the animal shows happening there at the time. He very clearly recalled an older chimp, isolated in a cage, away from people or other chimps, sitting and rocking, rocking, rocking. He didn’t interact with anything, just sat with a faraway gaze.

This evolved into THE LITTLE FRENCHY FILES, and the Company had two short plays to make up an evening of theatre.

Joe was to direct, and recruited Midnight regulars Larry Dell and his son, Travis, along with Steve Springmeyer (who performed in an early Midnight Hanrahan script, LIFE AFTER DEATH, and worked with Joe on many Orthwein and New Theatre shows), Ayse Eren (who Joe first met while both were working at Orthwein), and Marianne Laury, who acted with Trav in Rosati Kain High School’s production of THE MIRACLE WORKER.

Technisonic Studios was the venue, and it was an ideal setting for the abstract world of SOLDIER BOY, or the sterile animal research lab of LITTLE FRENCHY.

The production, approached almost as an exercise in writing and producing these short pieces, turned out very well, with good appreciative crowds, and mostly positive reviews
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KDHX Theatre Review - Soldier Boy and The Little Frenchy Files afterMIDNIGHT
Reviewed by Chris Gibson

afterMidnight is presenting two new plays by Joe Hanrahan who is also directing the proceedings. Soldier Boy and The Little Frenchy Files are a study in contrasts, with the former being a satirical take on war through the ages and the latter a touching and informative look at what becomes of a star circus chimp as he ages.

Soldier Boy opens the night in the stark confines of Technisonic Studios. Acharismatic politician grabs our attention, and not just because he's wearing the garb of a roman emperor, but because he's rallying his public to war. Steve Springmeyer is excellent in the part and generates a lot of laughs with lines that are all too familiar to anyone who follows politics. Larry Dell represents the army in his part as the soldier, although he might more aptly have been called the general since he never actually participates in battle, he just recruits and ships untrained young men overseas to die. Travis Hanrahan plays the boy, representative of all youth, who is initially eager to join up in a scene that illustrates the patriotic fervor of World War II. In the next scene he's a reluctant grunt being drafted and sent to Vietnam. And in the final scene set in the distant future he's a student unwilling to go to war against an alien race. He plays the part with a nervous intensity that serves the play well. Marianne Laury plays his girl, but seems a bit unsure of herself and has little to do. Ayse Eren plays his mother, and though she's solid, the part really doesn't give her much do either. The play is a little uneven, but entertaining and engaging nonetheless.

After a brief intermission The Little Frenchy Files begins. Ayse Eren is a little unsteady in her portrayal of Dr. Sahin, a researcher who has appropriated a former circus chimp and needs funding for her research. However, Springmeyer underplays to perfection as William Hermann, the funds provider. A lengthy bit of exposition at the beginning of the play is necessary, but it slows the pace down considerably and lacks any real interplay. Travis Hanrahan plays Frenchy and does excellent work emulating the chimp's posture and behavior. He's especially good at conveying the pain in Frenchy's eyes during a flashback scene with his trainer, touchingly portrayed by Larry Dell. Dell is moving and tender in the role and his performance anchors the piece emotionally. One important bit that really stuck with me was the fact that when chimps are forced to stand upright in a human posture that flash of teeth the audience sees is not a smile, but a grimace of pain.

Joe Hanrahan's direction and writing are generally sharp, although there are a few minor bumps along the way. The inclusion of an actual live performance of a verse of “Soldier Boy”, twice, could be taken as brilliant or pretentious depending on your point of view. I found it to be an interesting touch and thought it was sung decently by Eren and Laury, but I'm not sure it was really necessary. And using Creedence Clearwater Revival's “Run Through the Jungle” to evoke the Vietnam era is a cliché at this point, but I can't deny that those opening bars are still effective at setting that particular mood.

Kevin Stroup provides solid technical work at the light and soundboard, although I wouldn't have minded if some of Mike Radentz's sound cues had been pumped up a bit to give them more power.

talkinbroadway.com
Soldier Boy and The Little Frenchy Files afterMIDNIGHT
Reviewed by Richard Green


This is a very well-balanced double-bill, with a one-act full of archetypes and political humor followed by an excellent little tragedy about a maddened circus animal.

Written and directed by Joe Hanrahan, with his son Travis at the center of both pieces, the 85-minute investment is very entertaining. Travis Hanrahan is the naïve soldier-boy of the first story, a walking piece of Japanimation ready to spring into action. And, with a vestment-draped politician (Steve Springmeyer) and a gung-ho officer (Larry Dell) urging him on, there's plenty of room for commentary on the current social scene.

Young Mr. Hanrahan's march through pre-industrial wars is epic and grim. And because he is so young, he seems unaware of the clichés of most war stories. Those old familiar ‘lost my buddy' moments are dutifully air-dropped in as we visit the present day street battles in a faraway land. Ayse Eren and Marianne Laury are his mother and girlfriend, and just as simple and symbolic as everyone else during a millennium of wars. But the wry anti-Bush humor sprinkled throughout drew rueful laughter from the opening-night audience.

The Little Frenchy Files is a very different kettle of fish. The young actor plays a chimpanzee, huddled in a cage, shivering with neuroticism. All the same actors are back, including Ms. Eren, who is excellent as a thoughtful researcher specializing in mind-controlling drugs. Director/Playwright Joe Hanrahan neatly avoids archetypes and polemics in this short work, and the results are deeply stirring.

Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet will find it hard to take their eyes off Larry Dell as the bereft animal trainer. He can be tough as Bogart or Cagney, but plunges us into tender grief this time, hovering near the animal cage through most of the story. Mr. Springmeyer and Ms. Laury also return to gently move the plot along, but it's the trainer's remorse that makes The Little Frenchy Files so deeply affecting.

Riverfront Times
After Midnight
Reviewed by Paul Friswold

Soldier Boy/The Little Frenchy Files In terms of plot and structure, playwright/ director Joe Hanrahan's Soldier Boy and The Little Frenchy Files share nothing besides a cast and the bare, white-walled set. Soldier Boy is an allegorical view of war through the ages. Despite the polemical nature of the dialogue, some subtle points are scored. But the play barely acknowledges that some wars are actually fought by men and women who believe they're making a better world (American Revolution, anyone?) and never addresses the conundrum that killing in the name of a greater good is morally troubling. But a moral quandary forms the heart of Little Frenchy Files, about a chimpanzee who has been retired from the circus and will die in a research laboratory — unless a philanthropist funds an experimental rehabilitation program. Together, the plays present a robust and tough portrait of the human heart: We'll kill for a buck, and we'll spare no expense to save a life, even a nonhuman one. At our best we're noble savages, at our worst merely savages.

 


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