'Soldier's Heart' has lessons to teach
The Rep's warning that “Soldier's Heart” is intended for mature audiences is one to be heeded.
Some will be put off by the abundance of profanity and, while there is no nudity, there is one simulated sex act that — rightly — will generate discomfort.
But those are not the only reasons for the notice.
Tammy Ryan's “Soldier's Heart,” which is having its world premiere through Oct. 13, is a tense, raw, troubling and no-nonsense examination of what happens to soldiers, particularly female soldiers, serving in the military in general and Iraq in particular.
It begins with Casey Johnson, a mature, confident and level-headed Marine, preparing for a six-month deployment to Iraq where she will serve on a security detail.
Casey comes from a military family, so she's proud to be serving her country and fighting the bad guys, but has few romantic illusions about war.
She has made a careful, well-organized plan that will help her mother take care of Sean, Casey's 10-year-old son.
The Casey who returns home six months later is scarred and damaged mentally and physically from assaults received in contact with the enemy and from soldiers in her unit.
In writing “Soldier's Heart,” Ryan drew on interviews with soldiers who had served in the Middle East, along with books, documentaries and news reports of the conflict itself and reports of sexual assaults against women in the military.
Casey's struggles move back and forth over a nine-month period in her Southwestern Pennsylvania home and Iraq as she tries to deal with her emotional scars while reliving the traumatic moments that caused them.
This is not an easy play to watch.
Nor is it meant to be.
Director John Amplas keeps the tension high throughout, a strategy enhanced by the intimate surroundings of the Studio Theatre where the action plays out within inches of the audience.
The muddy confusion of war is clearly represented by Jessi Sedon-Essad's video designs, Kristopher Buggey's sound designs and Andrew David Ostrowski's lighting designs that play out on the corrugated walls and spare, all-gray furnishings of Gianni Downs' set.
Casey's vulnerability, anguish and inability to get off the couch could easily become tedious.
But actress Maria Elena O'Brien portrays Casey's mental torment with a precision and directness that compels you to care.
Casey is not the only person in this drama who's one of the walking wounded.
Casey's mother, Margie; her son, Sean; and her former partner, Kevin, make it clear those veterans of wars past and present — and their families — bear the scars from war and military deployment.
The cast backing up O'Brien is first-rate, from Jenna Cole's portrayal of Casey's blue-collar mom to Jaime Slavinsky's Lance Cpl. Jaime Hernandez.
Michael Fuller creates an eerie presence as the detached and menacing Capt. Christopher Barnes and Joseph Elijah Reese provides vivid support as Kevin.
“Soldier's Heart” is unlikely to be used as a recruiting tool by the armed services.
But it's neither anti-war, nor anti-military.
Ultimately, it is an indictment of military indifference to the lasting harm inflicted on troops while fighting wars with no clear enemy on the battlefield or within the military itself.
While Ryan ends her drama on a hopeful note, she makes clear that our veterans deserve better.
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.
- High school football notebook: WPIAL might welcome another team next year
- Firefighters rescue woman from burning home in Scott
- Pittsburgh police warn residents about phone scam
- Man apprehended after jumping White House fence
- Previewing some of Western Pa.’s top Week 9 matchups
- Nearing season’s midpoint, Steelers still have issues to sort out
- Steelers notebook: No-huddle gets limited use vs. Texans
- Penguins notebook: Team pays tribute to Ottawa shooting victims
- WPIAL, coaches are still looking to schedule Week 9 rivalry games
- H.S. Picks rounding into postseason form
- Buffalo Township grandma pleads guilty to selling hundreds of pounds of weed