Theatre at Tarleton closes semester with Biloxi Blues


Photo Courtesy of Theatre at Tarleton on Facebook

Biloxi Blues cast and production members prepare for the show on opening day.

Theatre at Tarleton closed this semester’s curtain with their production of Biloxi Blues.
Biloxi Blues was written in 1984 by Neil Simon. It is set in 1943, and it features a group of five U.S. Army recruits who are put through basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi during the Second World War.
The play is semi-autobiographical and is narrated by the main character, Eugene Morris Jerome played by Tyler Krumm, who is one of the recruits. Jerome’s three main goals in life were to become a writer, lose his virginity and fall in love. Throughout the play, Jerome writes everything down in his memoirs. The play starts on the train to Biloxi where Jerome meets three of his fellow recruits, Arnold Epstein played by Jake Wadkins, Roy Selridge played by Kody Lewis, Joseph Wykowski played by Gerik Lyssy and Don Carney played by John David Dvorak. The fourth recruit, James Hennesey played by Gabe Escoto is not introduced until the rest of the recruits arrive at the barracks.
When they get to Biloxi and are settling into their barracks, they are greeted with the play’s antagonist Drill Sergeant Merwin J. Toomey, played by Charlie Smith. Sgt. Toomey believes in old-Army ways and runs the basic training with an iron fist. Throughout the play, Sgt. Toomey utilizes cruel and unfair punishment and does everything to make the recruits next 13 weeks miserable, which he succeed in doing. His staple method of smoking, or punishment, for the recruits was doing up to 200 push-ups at one time. He would also not allow the recruits to leave the mess hall without finishing all their food, would have them scrub the latrines (bathrooms) on their hands and knees and also made them march for 15 miles at 5 a.m.

The main conflict of the play was between Sgt. Toomey and Epstein, who was the most defiant and apathetic of the recruits and did not answer well to authority. This conflict excelled when Epstein was accused of being gay after being caught with another recruit in the latrines.
In one scene, the recruits are in the barracks and make a bet on who can give the best answer to the prompt “what would you do if you only had seven days left to live?” Epstein in all confidence says that he would make Sgt. Toomey do 200 push-ups. This detail becomes important later.
At the beginning of act two, the five recruits use their 72-hour weekend leave to see a prostitute named Rowena played by Laramie Gambrell. While I will not go into detail on this plot point, I will say that Jerome knocked one thing off of his three life goals.
One of the most wholesome plot points of this play was when Jerome met a girl named Daisy Hannigan, played by Tiffany Wynne, and they fall in love. Jerome and Hannigan continue seeing each other until Jerome is ultimately sent off to his first duty station for the war. While they are hopeful to see each other again, they never do.
Close to the end of the play, Sgt. Toomey calls Jerome into his office. This is where a drunken Sgt. Toomey tells Epstein how much he admires his confidence and dignity. He then takes his pistol, points it at Epstein, and orders him to take it from him. A hesitant Epstein attempts to take it from his hands and struggles before finally relinquishing it. Sgt. Toomey then tells Epstein that in order for him to be arrested on drunken disorderly charges and holding him at gunpoint there needed to be witnesses. Epstein calls the rest of the recruits into Sgt. Toomey’s office. The recruits agree that Sergeant Toomey should not get charged but should do 200 push-ups right there in front of them, which he does.
The play ends with the recruits back in the train heading to their first duty stations as privates. Jerome with his memoirs tells what happened to each recruit in their Army career, and of course what happened to him.
Like every production I have seen at Tarleton, the Theatre department did a fantastic job. From the acting to the production to the crew, they always put on a phenomenal show. It was definitely on par with the original play. The play was entertaining to see from the perspective of someone who is in the Tarleton Corps of Cadets. It was similar in some ways to what being in the Corps is like and it was fun to see portrayed on stage.
Even though the Theatre department has faced many challenges in the past year, they never fail to stay true to the saying, “the show must go on.” I look forward to future productions and I encourage all students and faculty to see the wonderful performances that the Theatre department puts on.