by Ciara Berardi, Dramaturg
Set in Wisconsin following the Vietnam War, The Spitfire Grill is an exploration of individual and communal perseverance, the power of redemption, familial relationships, and the conflict of traditional, conservative values. Presenting this show in Boston, a bastion of liberal elitism, it is important that we consider the tenets of conservatism more common in the middle of the country. How does the setting affect the narrative, and how do we relate to it?
A common association with conservatives is their connection to religion, specifically to branches of Christianity. Typically, conservatives embrace limited government, fiscal discipline, free enterprise, a strong national defense, and traditional family values. Sometimes, conservative leanings are straightforward, in that their conservatism is primarily religious, social, and cultural. However, there are also libertarians, foreign-policy realists, and free marketers who are also considered conservative on different aspects of government and policy. During the Vietnam War, there was a split between two types of conservatives, the pro-war right and the Libertarians (a part of the antiwar movement).
The Spitfire Grill, which takes place in the 1980s after the Vietnam War, explores the effects of this war, as well as how regional conservatism affects the development and mindsets of the characters. Most of the characters in The Spitfire Grill identify as conservatives who were in support of the war, an increasingly unpopular opinion, while opposing the Commander-in-Chief. There are numerous references throughout the show about town hero Eli, and how he went missing in action; a plot point that casts a shadow over the town’s heads. Most of our characters use holding onto their values as what appears to be a form of coping mechanism. We witness old conservative values through how the characters treat the ones they love and how they treat each other.
When newcomer Percy enters this depressed and trapped landscape, she has just been released from prison on parole. The transition is not easy for her. She must learn to trust her new boss, Hannah, her coworker Shelby, and Joe, the sheriff in charge of her parole. While finding a comfortable relationship with a parole officer can be challenging for most parolees, it’s actually been proven that having a healthy relationship with an officer can have positive effects. Maybe Joe has the potential to be the calm in the storm that Percy’s looking for.
Will Percy be able to overcome how she views others and how they view her? Will the town find the light it needs to guide its way back to normalcy? Something’s cooking up at the Spitfire Grill, and it’s calling your name.