Women and War is a heavy play.
It’s made up entirely of monologues and has over a dozen characters who are involved in war in some way. In this version, by Ordinary Productions, all the characters are also played by teenagers. There are pros and cons to doing a play like this with teens.
Pro: Watching teenagers talk about holding someone as they die, or not knowing whether or not their spouses are alive, is incredibly heartbreaking. The thought of these vulnerable, open actors being involved war is even more powerful than it would be with adult actors.
Con: Unfortunately, the reality is that these teenagers don’t have the life experience to be able to believably portray what losing someone to war is like.
Several standout performances brought storylines to the forefront of the play. Amber Jakoy plays Betsy, a wife left on the homefront who writes letters to her husband in the army. Her transformation from a proud army wife to a devastated widow was captivating.
The character I related to the most was a female soldier in Afghanistan who spoke brashly and directly to the audience. In this role, Abigail Balisky stripped away some of the formality of the play and got down to the nitty gritty reality of war.
The script itself doesn’t make for a particularly dynamic play – after all, a script with only monologues is hard to stage in an engaging way. Director Larisse Campbell does a pretty good job, though, incorporating tableaux, physical transitions, and even a dance number.
Women and War is heartbreaking. It makes you think, it makes you feel… and it doesn’t let up. It’s good the play isn’t much longer than an hour because there’s only so much crying an audience can do before they need a break. One of the only bits of lightheartedness was in the monologues of the Vietnam Soldier (Oliver Balisky), who reminisced over his ma’s Italian cooking while he was stationed. But even that bit of comedy disappeared when I remembered he may never taste that tiramisu again.
One particularly tragic storyline focused on a mother (Peace Esther Buntu) who had three sons fighting in the army. She explained that, like all families of American soldiers, she was sent a blue star for each of her sons which she displayed in her window. As her sons were killed in combat, one by one the blue stars were replaces by gold ones. People passed the house and saluted. She was a “gold star mother”. “What more can a mother do than give her sons for her country?” She said, hiding her sadness with her pride.
The script needs work, the actors are fairly inexperienced, yet they have put together a beautiful, thoughtful piece. Would I recommend it? If you don’t mind a tragedy overload, it’s worth seeing.
Women and War plays at the Jericho Arts Centre at 8 PM on January 5th, 2 PM and 8 PM on January 6th. For tickets and more information click here.
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