NO HOLDS BARRED. NO APOLOGIES.
Just the brutally honest recollections of America's longest-held Vietnam prisoner-of-war. Based on the best-selling book.
Contains Mature Content
Tableau One: In Captivity
Colonel Floyd James (Jim) Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, looks back on his years as a captive. He sees himself as a young man and recalls episodes from his nine-year ordeal: escape attempts, torture, the overwhelming loneliness of four years in solitary confinement, and being forced to sign a propaganda statement. Through it all, he finds the strength to survive in memories of his wife and family. He recalls every letter his beloved Alyce sent to him before his capture.
As Thompson thinks on his idealized wife, Alyce receives the news that his surveillance plane has been shot down. Filled with fear and bitterness, she soon begins a relationship with another man (Harold), eventually moving in with him and telling the children that their father has died. Alyce denies permission for Jim’s name to be released to the public, not even for one of the POW bracelets that were common at the time. She consults a lawyer in an effort to have him declared legally dead.
As the tableau nears its conclusion, Thompson finds comfort in the 23rd Psalm as themes from the opera swirl around him. On his last word (“forever”), he is freed from prison, and a reunion with Alyce, inevitable and tragic, awaits.
Tableau Two: Welcome Home
The POW’s are released and Jim returns home. The Pentagon announces another man, a Navy pilot, as the longest-held prisoner. Excerpts from the Paris Peace Accords interrupt the pre-war memories of Jim and Alyce. Jim reads a letter of welcome from President Nixon, the text noting ominously that “Some things about America may appear to have changed since your departure.” Alyce meets Jim and confesses. She offers to disappear if that is what he wants, but only after he hears her out. Jim decides to attempt reconciliation. He notes how the nation has become different during his ordeal, at first mentioning improvements in material items and civil rights, but inevitably concluding with disdain for the new permissiveness and for his wife’s infidelity. Soon, the couple begins to fight, and Jim complains, “You’re not the Alyce I left.” For her part, Alyce asserts her independence, refusing to be the docile obedient wife. She tells of what her life was like during his absence, of the callous behavior of neighbors and family, of late-night crank calls from malicious strangers, of her fear and loneliness.
Jim visits the church where Alyce and he were married and speaks to the congregation. He tells how he survived his ordeal, stressing his “faith in God, country, and the love of a good woman.” Alyce too, both young and old, speaks simply of how she survived. Afterwards, Jim tells Alyce that he has come to forgive her, that all his bitterness is gone. Alyce responds that she does not care if he forgives her or not. Alyce asks, “What have I done that calls for forgiveness?”
Jim sits alone in his study. He has separated from Alyce for good. Illness has ended his military career. He asks himself over and over, “What to do today?” He finds consolation in the phrase, “One day at a time,” just as he did when he was a prisoner. Jim tries to stay positive and confident, but bitter feelings keep intruding. He struggles to forgive, but concludes, “Everyone else had a bracelet.”
Synopsis by composer Tom Cipullo