Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Powerful Production of
Word for Word Performing Arts Company has been one of the shinning lights of the Bay Area theatre world. Founded in 1993 by Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter, the company believes in the power of the short story to provide an evening of entertainment to their audience.
The company recently staged Siobhan Fallon's two short stories "The Last Stand" and "Gold Star" under the umbrella title of You Know When the Men Are Gone. These two one-act dramas offer an intimate look at life on an American military base through the eyes of the families of American soldiers deployed to Iraq. The author of these stories is the wife of an active duty U.S. Army officer who has served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The Last Stand," which was beautifully directed by Joel Mullennix, tells of 21-year-old Kit (Chad Deverman), a soldier who survived an IED attack in Iraq and returns home with a severely injured foot. During his tour of duty, the one thing that kept Kit going was the list he formed of all the ways in which his wife Helena (Roselyn Hallett) filled his life, which were absent from his life in Iraq. However, things are not as rosy as he imagined because Helena has become more distant, choosing to leave messages rather than talk to him during his long recovery in the military hospital. She is just tired of military life, and his shattered leg means the military can't afford for him to quit the service.
Chad Deverman gave an intense performance as Kit. It was a beautifully aware performance, as he gave subtle shades of meaning and feeling to the character. Roselyn Hallett was compelling as Kit's wife Helena. She gave the character susceptibility and rigid determination. Ryan Tasker gave a resounding portrayal as the straight-laced, no nonsense Crawford, Kit's best friend and drinking buddy. Arwen Anderson, Marilet Martinez and Armando McClain gave convincing performances as soldiers and civilians.
"Gold Star," directed strikingly by Amy Kossow, is a first-rate 20-minute drama and centers on Josie (Arwen Anderson), the widow of Eddie (Ryan Tasker), a sergeant whose burning body saved Kit's life. Josie is grieving because Eddie had just one more month in his tour of duty in Iraq. There is a beautiful scene in which Kit (Chad Deverman) gives an awkward visit to the widow that deepens her resentment.
Arwen Anderson gave a powerful tour de force performance of angry, unfocused grief and desperation of life. Ryan Tasker also gave a finely drawn performance as Eddie standing vigil over his widow. Chad Deverman presented a fine performance once again as Kit in an outstanding cameo.
Directors Joel Mullennix and Amy Kossow used a splendid style of theatrically with the ensemble just by imaginatively employing basic objects such as boxes as beds, a car, and a mechanical bull on Jacqueline Scott's symbolic, American flag-like set. All six of the actors, thanks to great direction, capably filled out other characters including military units and large crowds. Although niether of Fallon's short stories were written for the stage, they proved fruitful ground for the imaginative minds of Word for Word.
You Know Where the Men Are Gone closed February 14th at Z Space, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco. For upcoming productions go to www.zspace.org