Tom Brokaw billed it as The Greatest Generation — World War II soldiers and those who fueled the war effort at home.

Sharr White, playwright of "Six Years," which opens at Salt Lake Acting Company on Wednesday, also tackles the subject, but he set out to show a different side.

"The Brokaw book was terrific in a lot of ways. But I wanted to tell a story not often told — about many people from this generation who didn't find it to be as glorious as American mythology tends to make it."

"The trap in writing war stories is that you really have to stack your story against everything that's come before," White said over the phone. "So many cliches to steer around. What I did was assume everything the audience already knew about war by cutting that out and focusing on the relationship."

Meet Meredith Granger, whose husband Phil, a WWII soldier, was supposed to have come home after the war ended in 1945. She knows he's not among the casualties but has no idea where he's been the past four years.

Word spreads through their tiny community that he's staying in a motel on the outskirts of town. She runs through a rainstorm to find him, and that's where the journey of "Six Years" begins.

"Returning from this unspeakable experience, he's alienated because so many people don't or won't understand what he's really been through," White said. "But Meredith is affected, too. She has her own sense of alienation."

But the war is only a backdrop for the play, which White says is really a love story. "It's about this couple and the war is bound up in everything they do," he said, "but it's about how they receive each other and how they define things they can and cannot speak about as they grow older."

In each scene, the play jumps ahead six years, showing the couple through the booming '50s, to the optimism of Kennedy in the '60s, to the turbulent Vietnam era, ending in 1973.

"The play really charts their journey together through the post-war American landscape."

White was pleased with SLAC's decision to produce his work. "It's not the smartest thing in the world to write a big piece like this," he said jokingly. "Many times producers look down the cast list and scene list and if it doesn't fit, they don't do it."

The choice is timely as well, with so many people struggling with challenges facing our country. SLAC noted that the story could help light the way through the next challenging epoch in American history.

White, who lives in California, will be in Salt Lake City for the opening, which he's really excited about because "I actually haven't seen a production since it premiered in 1996." He will also participate in a post-play discussion following the matinee on Nov. 16 and have his new play, "Sunlight," read in the New Play Sounding Series on Nov. 17.

If you go ...

What: Six Years

Where: Salt Lake Acting Company,168 W. 500 North

When: Wednesday through Dec. 7; nightly, except Mondays and Tuesdays, times vary, matinees available

How much: $13-$34

Phone: 801-363-7522

Web:www.saltlakeactingcompany.org


E-mail: ehansen@desnews.com