Opening with a moment-to-moment recreation of the first five minutes of Coppola’s epic is a risky gambit for those who have not seen the original movie. Chris Davis stares vacantly, despairingly, and reproduces the emotional turmoil of a soldier with PTSD in his first character incarnation as Colonel Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen). With a few props and a blow-up mattress he will simulate the other various players and their milieu: the boat, the chef, the young rookie, the crazed Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) and ultimately Colonel Walter E. Kurtz’s (Brando) jungle playground.
Whilst the performance is backed by an edited soundtrack, Davis utilises the clever technique of referring to the characters by the actor’s name which allows for a meta-commentary on the actors’ own biographies throughout the scenes. This commentary also strays into the fertile arena of Davis’ own biography which he uses as a substitute for the backstory of Willard.
This juxtaposition threatens to overwhelm the existing plot which, although a linear journey, is peppered with moments of transcendent surrealism. The character evocations are mostly accurate, although Davis’ Brando is somewhat blunted by the lack of Brandoisms. A strangely repetitive vignette with Kilgore outstays its welcome and this particular portrayal seems to suffer from competing with the many other incarnations.
There is palpable relief when moments of levity puncture the heightened and faithfully rendered atmosphere but it is apparent that a portion of the audience is failing to engage with this particular narrative. Davis rises to the challenge of reproducing the pivotal moments of the movie in a very professional and proficient manner but with little preamble implicit in the script only the true acolytes can embrace this tribute to the exploration of the psychological abyss of war.