Johnny Got His Gun

Rated 4.0 It’s forever thus: The old men declare the wars, and the young soldiers fight them. It makes you wonder what decisions would be made if the chest thumpers and high-rankers truly had to lead the troops into battle. It also makes you wonder how our “war president” would react to Joe Bonham, the main character in Johnny Got His Gun, a searing look at the cost of war. Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo’s historic 1939 novel, centers on 20-year-old soldier Bonham, who slowly wakes up to discover he is a living war causality. He has no arms, no legs, no eyes, no ears and no mouth. The book, published at the dawn of World War II, was reissued as an antiwar novel during the Vietnam War. Sadly, 30 years later, the message of war’s real destruction is relevant once again.

It’s appropriate that the story of young loss is being brought to the stage by a young theater troupe, Lookout! Players. The book has been condensed into a one-hour, one-man performance. An hour is just enough time for the audience to experience the horror without sensory overload. Is a play about a horribly maimed soldier depressing? Yes. Is it memorable, thought-provoking and strangely life-affirming? Yes. Is it worth a visit? Absolutely.

Not only does the story resonate, but so does the remarkable performance by Ricardo Pérez Gonzalez. Gonzalez pumps incredible emotion into his portrayal of a young man who wants both to live and to die; to rail and to plead; and, most of all, to be recognized as a man, a son, a friend, a lover, a scared survivor and a brave soldier.