'Soldier's Heart' strikes deep into painful territory
Sgt. Casey Johnson is a strong, well-organized, fearless woman.
When we first meet her, the 30-year-old Marine is preparing to leave for a six-month tour of duty in Iraq.
She has prepared a meticulous plan and a detailed schedule for her mother, who will take care of Casey's 10-year-old son, Sean, right down to dates, filled-out forms and signed checks to register him up for next spring's baseball team.
Six months later, she returns home a very different woman, physically and emotionally scarred, not just by assaults from enemy combatants, but by those of her fellow soldiers.
“Soldier's Heart,” Shadyside resident Tammy Ryan's latest play, moves between the past and present in Casey's home somewhere in Western Pennsylvania and the combat zones of Iraq, as it examines the events that changed Casey and their effect on her life and the lives of those around her.
The drama is having its world premiere Sept. 26 to Oct. 13 as a production of The Rep, Point Park University's professional theater company.
For several years, Ryan had wanted to write a play about the effect ongoing wars had on families with people serving in the military.
“You can't not think about it,” Ryan says. When reports began surfacing about women in the military being sexually assaulted by other soldiers, she narrowed her focus.
“Not writing about sexual assault would be turning a blind eye to it,” Ryan says.
She also became interested in women who have to leave their kids while serving in combat.
“I'm in awe that they are able to do that. But what is the impact on them?” she asks.
The result is an ultimately hopeful play that examines trauma, a variety of dysfunctional behaviors and how that cycle can be broken. All seven of the drama's characters are recovering from or living with some trauma or dysfunction.
Margie, Casey's mom, is a recovered alcoholic. Kevin, Casey's ex-husband and father to Sean, is an ex-Marine who is dealing with his own post-traumatic-stress disorder. Her battle-hardened military comrades and her commanding officers are callous, manipulative or uncaring.
Young Sean just can't understand what's happened to his warm, supportive mother and why she avoids him.
“There are things we perpetuate and things we have control over,” Ryan says. “If we err on the side of love and compassion, the damage is not irreversible.”
Ryan credits her close relationship with the Pittsburgh Playhouse for giving her the support to write “Soldier's Heart.”
It is the eighth of Ryan's plays to be produced at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.
“The Playhouse has committed to me as an artist and not just for one play,” she says. “It's what every playwright wants to have: a home where I can develop my work. If I didn't have the Playhouse, I wouldn't have written half of them or had the courage to write this one.”
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ray Rice wins appeal, suspension vacated
- UPMC researcher died of acute cyanide poisoning, medical examiner says
- Icy roads cause accidents, slow traffic across Western Pa.
- Photo of suspect in Greendale Tavern burglary/fire released
- No decision yet on charges against elderly driver who struck and killed pregnant woman
- Witnesses help identify 2nd teen charged in killing Andre Roberts
- Police still looking for man suspected of robbing 2 people at knifepoint in Ambridge
- Stakes high as ex-Saints receiver Moore faces his former team
- Northern Cambria man accused of attempted rape
- Earlier openings make Black Friday shopping easier for bargain-hunters
- Steelers notebook: Injury to RT Gilbert opens door for Adams to start