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Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel


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David Rabe (b. 1940)

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A: David W. Rabe Pf: 1971, New York Pb: 1972 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Vietnam, Georgia and Pavlo's mother's home, USA, 1965–7 C: 18m, 4f, extrasThe action of the play is given in flashback. As Pavlo Hummel, a US serviceman, dies from a grenade attack on a Vietnamese brothel, he relives his army career. Accompanied by his alter ego, a black sergeant named Ardell, Pavlo is trained in an army boot camp in Georgia, where he attempts to overcome his isolation from the other conscripts by telling tall stories about himself. He satisfactorily endures the rigours of basic training, and visits his dysfunctional family of mother and half-brother before being posted to Vietnam as a medic. After losing his virginity to a prostitute and having coped with the horror of observing an amputation, Pavlo volunteers for combat duty. Wounded three times, he is urged by Ardell to return home; instead, he is decorated with the Purple Heart and required to stay on in Vietnam. Back in the brothel, it emerges that the hand grenade was thrown not by the enemy, but by a fellow soldier in a fit of jealousy over Pavlo's prostitute Yen. Pavlo lying in his coffin is questioned by Ardell about his views on the war. He responds with the repeated word: ‘Shit!’, until Ardell finally closes the lid on him.

A: David W. Rabe Pf: 1971, New York Pb: 1972 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Vietnam, Georgia and Pavlo's mother's home, USA, 1965–7 C: 18m, 4f, extras

Written in the authentic language of soldiers, this play was the most successful of Rabe's Vietnam Trilogy, which also included Sticks and Bones (1969) and The Orphan (1973). Rabe had himself served in Vietnam and ended up disillusioned not only with the conflict but also with the lack of public understanding at home in the USA. The play was successfully revived on Broadway in 1977, with Al Pacino in the title role.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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