Review by Willard Manus

The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble, a youthful group comprised mostly of ex-UCLA students, has delivered a shot of adrenaline to the 2007 season with its potent production of WOUNDED. Collaboratively conceived and written by company members, the play is based on taped interviews with soldiers recovering from grievous wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Directed by Tom Burmester, the piece is set in Fisher House, the rehabilitation center at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC. Fashioned over a two-year period and premiered in a 75-minute version at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, WOUNDED follows the interwoven stories of four young veterans and their families whose lives have been forever altered by the grim fortunes of war. Bill (the charismatic Emeka Nnadi) is a blind, African-American Marine sergeant; Doc (Albert Meijer) is an embittered Navy medic who lost a leg and takes out his anger on his wife (Morgan Early); Beth (Emily Rose) is a helicopter pilot and double-amputee.

Carly Reeves plays Angel, a college student whose boyfriend is a "triple," (two legs and an arm). Faced with having to make a difficult decision--to leave him or not--Angel is wracked with guilt, confusion and self-loathing. Carrie Bradac, Spencer Nicholas and Eric Ancker play minor but effective roles; Lauren Eckston, wrapped in black, appears as an Iraqi woman whose presence hovers over the proceedings like an avenging angel.

WOUNDED brings the war in the Middle East home with devastating emotional force. It looks deep into the hearts and minds of the casualties of that war, youngsters whose fight for survival has moved from the battlefield to the infirmary.

Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 2nd St., Santa Monica. (310) 396-3680x3 or visit latensemble.org