WEST VALLEY CITY — “No Time for Sergeants” arguably marked the breakthrough of the archetypal pure-hearted bumpkin who uses aw-shucks charm to guide him through whatever calamity he might encounter.
Andy Griffith played the role to such perfection that he portrayed the backwoods rube Will Stockdale three times: in the 1955 made-for-TV adaptation, the Broadway play that soon followed and the big-screen version three years later.
“The success of ‘No Time for Sergeants’ rests on the lead actor,” says Jennifer Parker Hohl, who directs the play at Hale Centre Theatre. “He has 75 percent of the lines, and it was honestly a challenge to the cast. But both leads in the double cast, Brandon Green and Justin Bruse, are completely charming. My show is in very good hands — and I’ve been able to sleep at night.”
The Stockdale character was first introduced in a best-selling World War II memoir by Mac Hyman. The bumptious draftee is brought to the Air Force base in handcuffs because his farmer father has been hiding his draft notices. Stockdale is so uninformed about the basic facts of how the military functions and many other aspects of modern life, that he is ridiculed by fellow infantrymen. His master sergeant, Orville C. King, tries to keep him out of mischief by appointing him “PLO” — permanent latrine orderly, a distinction in which Stockdale takes enormous pride.
“What is so fresh and charming is the innocence of Will and his endless positive energy,” Hohl says. “Life is genuinely exciting to him, and he takes any problems in stride, always very positive.”
Noting that she is a woman directing a double cast with 26 actors in total, only two of which are women, “I’m having a complete riot with my boys, as I call them,” she explains. “And there is a real spirit of teamwork and camaraderie. I’m so pleased that they are mirroring the enduring concept of friendship that’s in the play. That’s onstage and offstage. They have become fast friends, and that teamwork and camaraderie really show in their performances.”
Along with the “top-to-bottom” great cast, Hohl is anxious for audiences to see the set design by Kacey Udy.
“There are a few gimmicks he’s designed that are totally brilliant. The audience is going to have some very, very good laughs,” she says.
Possibly involving the very famous scene of Stockdale’s commander inspecting the latrine? Wait and see, theatergoers.
If you go
What: “No Time for Sergeants”
Where: Hale Centre Theatre
When: April 23-May 25
How much: $26-$16
Tickets: 801-984-9000 or halecentretheatre.org
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company