Theater | Six Up: Six Years revisits the lives of an American couple after the “good war.” 

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In Six Years, now playing at Salt Lake Acting Company, Phil (Robert Scott Smith) has been gone fighting a war for a while. World War II, specifically. You know, the good one. He is obviously troubled when he finally returns home to his wife, Meredith (Alexandra Harbold). We revisit them over the coming decades—once every six years—and witness the far-reaching repercussions of his initial trauma.

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The feelings and themes could have been picked up out of any postwar period and placed onto this particular matrix. War is hell, whether it’s the good one or not. I’ve never been to war, but I’ve absorbed enough war narrative to know how this works, in theory.

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Which is fine. When it comes down to it, there are really only so many stories to tell, and so the challenge comes in telling them well. Or at least in playing with the audience’s preconceptions.

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Six Years doesn’t do that, though. Phil comes home. Phil has a hard time adjusting. Nobody understands Phil. Phil’s relationships suffer. Which is fine. Well, not for Phil, but storywise.

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The next challenge, then, lies in revealing this familiar territory in a manner that makes it fresh—or perhaps so real that we forgive its familiarity because it’s true. Six Years at least comes close to that. Sharr White’s script is full of the overlapping dialogue and incomplete interpersonal allusions that season real speech. The characters seem to know each other, and we’re forced to become acquainted with them more by what they leave out than by what they say. These, to me, are good things.

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Unfortunately, the lead actors are picking it up as they go along as well. Smith and Harbold seem to be closer to their characters than the audience is, but still not inside. You know what they’re getting at, but it isn’t working. The trouble is exacerbated by staging that has characters talking to each other’s backs and isolated downstage delivering lines soliloquy-style.

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As happens so often, the supporting cast is a different story. Paul Kiernan’s portrayal of shifty brother-in-law Jack doesn’t make the show superb on its own, but along with Keven Myhre’s clever set design that brings the audience through most of the last half of the 20th century with just three versatile pieces and a handful of couches, we are at least left with something to get us through these troubling times.

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SIX YEARS
nSalt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, 355-SLAC, Through Dec. 7

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About The Author

Rob Tennant

Bio:
Rob Tennant is a Salt Lake City freelance writer.

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