A Piece of My Heart
Also see Susan's review of Eclipsed
Lauro took her inspiration from an oral history compiled by Keith Walker, which covers the stories of 26 women who served in Vietnam. The play concentrates on six archetypal characters: a self-described military brat (Christine Hirrel) who wants to be an Army nurse like her mother; a wide-eyed singer (Melissa W. Bailey) who gets booked as an entertainer at military camps; a small-town girl (Robin Covington) who sees military service as a way to break out; a wealthy young woman (Anne Veal) who horrifies her parents by applying for Red Cross work in the war zone; a half-Chinese, half-Italian nurse from New York City (Momo Nakamura) who thinks she's going to serve in a rehabilitation hospital in Hawaii; and an African-American career officer (Jeri Marshall) who takes an overseas posting to improve her professional standing.
The stories begin before deployment, follow the six women through their tours of duty, then show how the women attempt to find where they belong once they come home. Lauro has created a mosaic of moments: an inexperienced nursing supervisor thrown into a mass casualty situation; an analyst whose report is ignored because she's a woman and not high enough on the chain of command; the woman who needs to "build a psychological wall" so the stresses of the job don't destroy her; and the momentary joys of drinking, smoking pot and attending a Bob Hope Christmas show. The postwar experiences echo the better-known problems of male veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder and lingering illness from exposure to Agent Orange.
Director Jason M. Beagle has a sensitive, sympathetic way with the material, and the womenjoined by Greg Gallagher as all the American men in their Vietnam experienceshift fluidly in and out of character as they tell their own and each other's stories. Marshall, tall and imposing, and Nakamura, portraying an Asian-American unsure of herself in an Asian country, give the most moving performances; Veal sometimes seems overly mannered as a woman who tries to set limits that don't always hold up.
Hannah J. Crowell's scenic design makes maximum use of minimal components (benches, storage crates), but Brian S. Allard's lighting design and, especially, Tim Morse's dead-on sound design do more to create the reality facing the women.
American Century Theatre