With the current political and military climate of the United States, New York theatregoers have every right to expect they'll have the opportunity to see a wide range of plays dealing with the experience of war from every imaginable vantage point. John Murrell's Waiting for the Parade, now at the Greenwich Theatre with its story about five Canadian women coping with life during World War II, shouldn't seem more timely.
Yet this production, which has been directed by Joe Paradise, fails to realize all but the most obvious goals of the script. Paradise and his performers seldom pause to dig deeper into the relationships that define the five women and the often untold story of Canada's involvement with World II. And in a production mostly devoid of physical trappings - the very limited sets and costumes are contributed to Colin Miles Campbell and Liz Deutsch, respectively - sticking close to the surface is a dangerous move.
Murrell's script doesn't, as it offers a number of intriguing (if familiar) opportunities for the performers. Among the specific elements that define the show's characters, all of whom work for the Canadian equivalent of the USO: a German woman, who has lived in Canada since her childhood, facing prejudice in what she's always considered her home; a woman who drowns her sorrows in drink and other men; a woman who throws herself into her work, neglecting her homelife as a result; an older woman faced with losing both of her sons to very different war efforts; and so on. These women must confront not only their own feelings but deal with the others' losses as well, often in painful and difficult ways.
Janet Arneau, Alexandra Buckley, Doris Hicks, Jennifer McCabe, and Margaret Warncke play the five women, each with varying degrees of success. Each experiences moments of sensitivity that underscore the play's simple humanity, and each misses out on opportunities that might further heighten the impact of the play. The performers are most successful when left to their own devices, and most characters have the opportunity to relate to the audience one-on-one, if only for a few moments.
Paradise's solutions for the women when he must handle them as a group are less successful. So is much of his staging, which often lacks focus and clarity, and has frequent overly drawn-out scene changes, despite the minimal set pieces he utilizes. In all fairness, I attended an early press preview at the show during which some of the technical issues were still being worked, so Waiting for the Parade may well be a more polished, complete evening later on.
But few changes are likely to bestow additional weight on the show; that doesn't seem to be what Paradise or his performers have in mind. Waiting for the Parade is already a somewhat light and potentially emotional play. Assuming Paradise and his crew can get their technical issues straightened out, that will most likely be enough to drive this watchable show at least halfway home.
Biltmore Theatre Group