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Theater Review: Backward Forwards Back

SARASOTA – On Friday, Urbanite Theatre in downtown Sarasota opened the rolling world premiere of Jacqueline Goldfinger's Backward Forwards Back. Directed by Urbanite Theatre Co-Artistic Director Brendan Ragan, the one-man play is a riveting look at the horrors of combat PTSD through the experience of a returning soldier.

When a flashback triggers a horrible act of violence, a soldier who recently returned from combat is faced with a decision: address his PTSD with Virtual Reality therapy, or risk becoming forever alienated from the only family he has.

Goldfinger's play takes a gritty, no-holds-barred look at perhaps the darkest element of warfare–its propensity to shatter the humanity of its participants. The playwright deftly parses the many facets of the character's struggles in such a way that it's nearly impossible to believe that it was created by anyone other than a combat veteran.

FSU/Asolo Conservatory graduate L. James, who wowed Urbanite audiences in 2020 with his turn as Lynx in the thriller Sender, gives a downright spellbinding performance as "The Soldier," dragging audiences into his haunted mind for a gut-wrenching look at the powerful demons that can be created by tours of duty.

Urbanite once again demonstrates its commitment to making inventive use of the space available in a small, black box theatre via Jeff Weber's stellar set design, while Lyndell McDonald's brilliant lighting enhances the experience extensively.

Backward Forwards Back is the kind of play that every policymaker who contributes to decisions on the use of force should be made to watch, as it reminds us, in the words of Ernest Hemingway, to "never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime."

For the production, Urbanite Theatre is collaborating with Operation Warrior Resolution, a veteran-run nonprofit and the leader in innovative, holistic mental health care for veterans and families. Backward Forwards Back runs through April 23. Visit the Urbanite website for ticket and schedule information.


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