A PIECE OF MY HEART is Deeply Moving

by Walter Bender


Dramateurs at the Barn in Jeffersonville opened its latest offering, A PIECE OF MY HEART by Shirley Lauro on Friday, October 1. This is the story of six women who go to Vietnam for different reasons, yet share experiences, both overseas and when they return home.

Cast members from A PIECE OF MY HEART at Dramateurs, Inc: (from u.l.) Zuhairah McGill, Jeanine Brotherston, Tara Jo Quinn (with guitar), Maria Jarrell, Lauren Kerstetter, Mel Nguyen.

As the play opens, we are greeted with a rear-screen slideshow of scenes of Vietnam during the war-torn years. We soon meet the women who are the focus of the story…Martha (Maria Jarrell), an army brat who chooses to follow in her family’s footsteps, Sissy (Lauren Kerstetter) a somewhat naïve nurse from Erie, Whitney (Jeanine Brotherston) who comes from a well-to-do family, a Vassar grad who chooses to serve as a USO girl, Maryjo (Tara Jo Quinn) the lead singer in a girl band who is hired to go entertain the troops, Leeann (Mel Nguyen) a nurse who signs up to go to Hawaii “where they all look like her” and instead ends up in Vietnam, and Steele (Zuhairah McGill), a career soldier in the Intelligence department who volunteers to go to Vietnam to help. Supporting these women in various roles (The American Men) is Drake Aaronson.

The story of these women is the play…in the first act they narrate their decisions to enlist or sign up to go overseas, their experiences getting to Vietnam, their first days, their various tours of duty, and the end of their tour, entering the plane to come home. There are moments of humor, sadness, anger, terror…every imaginable emotion, and these women do an amazing job of bringing you into their respective stories. Each of them tell you the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, and you share everything with them. Mr. Aaronson fills in when needed to give the women a soldier, a parent, an officer to play opposite as they tell their tale. At the end of the first act, I sat there for a couple minutes wondering what they had left to tell, and found out that the story was indeed only half-told.

Act II explains the women’s experiences upon returning home, dealing with a country that had not yet learned to separate the war from the troops, as well as Agent Orange disease, post-traumatic shock, and drug and alcohol addiction among other things. Once again, each of the actors took us to that time and made us feel the pain, anger and resentment each of them felt as their country disappointed them time after time. I kept my composure until the final scene…no words, but a beautiful tableau that said so much.

The individual and collective performances of these actors were amazing. Each of them brought their character to life, and I believed every one of them and felt their pain. Congratulations to Deb Braak as well for her direction of this show…the movements were minimal, making each movement important, yet not allowing the show to stagnate. The staging allows audience to sit on the sides, and at times the actors were inches from the seating, making it even more intimate.

Congratulations to the cast, crew and production staff of this incredible production. Sadly, the house was not full the night I was there. It’s not standard “entertainment” to be sure, but it is surely worth the night out. Leave the kids at home, bring tissues, and go see this very moving drama.

by Shirley Lauro
Directed by Deb Braak
October 1 – 10, 2010
The Dramateurs, Inc.
at the Barn Playhouse
Christopher Ln & Rittenhouse Blvd
Jeffersonville, PA

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