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A Piece of My Heart’ inspects Vietnam War

Marty Schroeder | Tuesday, December 5, 2006

“A Piece of My Heart,” written by Shirley Lauro and directed by London Vale, tells the story of six women involved in the Vietnam War and how it profoundly affected their lives. The St. Edward’s Hall Players presented the play in the Washington Hall Lab Theatre this past weekend. Everything from retirement issues to Agent Orange Disease is dealt with and confronted. The flexible nature of the play was suited well to the versatile space of the Lab Theatre, and the show was well performed, with a simple but effective lighting design.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of this play was the way the actors were able to move from their primary characters to other, more peripheral characters as needed. Instead of casting more people, Vale chose to have her primary actors play these smaller parts.

When a nameless nurse was needed, an actor would fill in and then switch back to her primary character as another actor would then fill in a nameless yet needed role. The actors transitioned with skill and were able to maintain a level of characterization that allowed for an easy suspension of disbelief.

Also, the decision to cast one male for all of the male parts was a fine move on Vale’s part. Most of the male parts were simplistic, but Joe Vittoria handled all of them well.

The group of actors involved was excellent, but Jennifer Melillo and Jennifer Betancourt were the strongest of an already talented cast. Their portrayals of Sissy and Leeann, respectively, were emotionally rich and provided the backbone of the play. Also contributing noteworthy performances were Megan O’Donoghue and Molly Kealy, who were both very good as Red Cross nurses.

Stephanie Elise Newsome put in perhaps the most enthusiastic performance as Army intelligence member Steele. All of the actors performed very well and each had their own strengths, creating a cohesive whole and producing a very moving and affecting performance.

On the technical side, the lighting design by Jon McCallie and Sarah Mikrut was simple but very effective. Washes of orange and red were used at appropriate times, while the general lighting scheme served the production well.

Maura Galbraith, Ashley Ceniceros and London Vale designed the sound, and the songs and sound effects chosen were appropriate and established a sense of time and space very well. The stage manager, Ashley Ceniceros, kept the show running with ease, and Vale was able to elicit solid performances from her cast.

Overall “A Piece of My Heart” was an excellent show, indicating that the future of the St. Edward’s Hall Players is in good hands. For student theatre, it was a fine production.

The topics explored in the play are valid issues that apply to the present day. Films and theatre related to war usually explore the male aspect of the situation, but Lauro skillfully takes a stab at examining what effect the Vietnam War had on the female members of the armed forces.

In our current climate of war, it is good to remember the soldiers fighting – however, what is that worth if the women are forgotten? What “A Piece of My Heart” leaves with its audience is the notion that many have made sacrifices in fighting for our country, but not all of them are on the front lines with a rifle.