War R Us
Published October 27, 2005
In 1988 playwright Shirley Lauro wrote a stylized play based on Keith Walker's earlier book, "A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam." Some years ago, Sweettooth Theatre and La Jolla Stage performed it in the basement of the Maryland Hotel in a then-unsafe Gaslamp Quarter.
The work follows six women who serve during the Vietnam War. One is a USO entertainer; the others are nurses, military personnel, and a Red Cross worker. These women came home shell-shocked by the realities of war, in various ways addicted, and ravaged in mind, body and spirit. Their welcome was no better than that of the men who served in the military. All were pilloried for their participation in what was at the time America's most unpopular war to date.
Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company chose "A Piece of My Heart" to open its first complete season. That the work resonates in today's world goes without saying. The time, just before Memorial Day, and the place, Balboa Park's Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, are appropriate.
Playing through November 5 only, it's a piece of solar plexus theatre riveting, intensely affecting, and sublimely performed by Equity actors Erika Beth Phillips, Nicole Gabriella Scipione, Siobhan Sullivan (who also directs), Natalie Salins, Seema Sueko and Valerie J. Ludwig. Lance Arthur Smith portrays all the American men. Unfortunately, the museum, formerly the U.S. Naval Hospital chapel, does not love the human voice. The louder the volume, the more muffled the words. Each performance is followed by a panel discussion with Vietnam-era nurses and veterans.
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4-5; 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, 2115 Park Blvd., San Diego, $15-$20, (619) 342-7395 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shoes R Us
When director Rosina Reynolds read the script given her by San Diego Rep Artistic Director Sam Woodhouse, she said of the character Haley Walker in "Bad Dates," playwright Theresa Rebeck's outrageously popular one-woman comedy, "That's DeAnna Driscoll." In a talkback following the October 26 performance Driscoll revealed her personal kinship to the character. Haley, who recounts her bad date experiences, is a single mother with a shoe fetish. Driscoll, who heads the drama department at High Tech Middle School in Point Loma, is also a single mother with a "thing" for shoes.
Hysterically, Haley lives amid a mountain of shoes (hundreds of pairs in boxes, cubbyholes and hanging from the ceiling) in Mike Buckley's set. Never mind that some no longer fit this woman who calls herself a savant restaurateur. The charming and lovely Driscoll proceeds to try them on, along with an array of fetching and not-so-fetching gowns, while she chats up the viewers and prepares for her first date in five years.
Men in the audience squirm and the women scream in recognition as Driscoll takes us through a landscape of potential lovers, including a Buddhist she calls Bug Man; a blind date with a vicious gay man, arranged by her mother; and a former beau she has the guts to get involved with once again. The size of her hurt matches the price tag on the rose-adorned shoes she buys for this one.
Driscoll's timing is impeccable; her appeal and ease quite extraordinary. She looks fabulous in Jeannie Galioto's rags, and if you're like I, you sit in the dark wanting her to try on all of them. Laughs are legion because we so identify with and like this woman. She R us.
8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through November 13, San Diego Repertory Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego, $27-$42, www.sandiegorep.com or (619) 544-1000.