Beyond Glory is a collection of stories about the men who fought in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Adapted from the book of the same title, Glory is performed by the impeccable Stephen Lang, who casually shifts through eight characters, sliding on different accents and morphing through different mannerisms, capturing the drilled-in mechanics of a soldier’s behavior while conveying the emotions that make him human.
Lang has built a career playing strong-willed men of war, and in Glory, as staff sergeant Nicky Daniel Bacon, Lang runs through the checklist of combat, firing commands and strategies like a semi-automatic rifle, and we see in both Lang and Bacon a man who desperately needs to know everything, who understands that every minute is a matter of life or death. In contrast is the measured story of James Stockdale’s seven years spent as a Vietnam POW, in which he refused to break during endless torture. Lang’s Stockdale is intently calm as he recounts the circumstances of wartime barbarity. His breath slow and steady, protecting his wrists even now from the ropes, Stockdale exemplifies the common theme through all of these soldiers’ stories: an unswerving sense of duty.
Lang’s adaptation works well on stage. Each character has been deftly condensed from thirty-page chapters in the book to short, information-packed monologues. As the subject is, in many ways, about heroism in wartime, the performance can come close to glorifying conflict, and in a time when a majority of the country opposes the current war, these moments risk distracting from an otherwise great performance. Ultimately, though, Lang is stating the facts and he doesn’t seem to be hiding any strings: these men fought wars (some necessary, some not) in which they took lives and saved lives, and these are the stories — stories of human perseverance, stories worth listening to.