Writers: Sandra W. Lee, Rebecca Hirota, Emma C. Walton, Jessica L. Vera, Jay Myers, Adrienne Brammer, Damion J. Williams, Victoria Nassif, Maggie Moore, & Julia Sears
Director: Julia Sears
Reviewer: Robert Price
Six women and two men stand in uniform, singing in harmony that echoes off the walls of the cavernous church. Behind them Até, the daughter of war, sings lead. She carries a sword in her hand and demands the right to wear the face of her father. The military is taking steps to integrate women into combat units, and this group is training for their deployment. The performers are the creators of this play, a project began in January 2016 by the Women in Combat Theatre Project. Three of the cast are veterans and many more service members were interviewed in the devising process. The result is stunning. It’s a story told in dialogue, in sound and movement, in dance and in silence.
Lieutenant Colonel Maya De Los Santos loves her wife, Jordan, but she doesn’t feel comfortable celebrating their love openly. Even after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, she fears that her access to promotion might be denied if her sexuality were public knowledge. She feels pressure to advance, as the first woman to do so, egged on by Até’s urging poetry. De Los Santos is separated from Jordan by a wall of soldiers that salute when she attempts to pass through them, her rank and respect a barrier between them. Private First Class Joan Boudica gets the call that she’ll be deployed while refilling people’s coffee. She struggles in training to catch up to the more experienced soldiers despite the well-meaning advice of Specialist Richard Lampido. Lieutenant Anouk Eshara finds it difficult to contain Staff Sergeant Athena Pajau Yan Kostopolis, an energetic, foul-mouthed motivator who’s happy to be headed to the frontline. Sergeant Kalli Kovas finds her phone time with her daughter interrupted by an argument with her mother. Private First Class Clarence Dion Reo sneaks in a little liquor and tries to cheer up Lampido, who has just received papers from his wife’s lawyer.
Music and movement propel the show forward, with notable solo pieces by Rebecca Hirota as Pajau and Victoria Nassif as Eshara. What they express is more than can be written down and must be seen to be appreciated. Sandra W. Lee doubles as Até and Jordan, at war with and pining for Jessica L. Vera as De Los Santos. Their romance is the sweetest but their battle rings with the chaos of war. Emma C. Walton draws us in as Boudica, wearing her heart on her sleeve in the most dangerous terrain. Sound design by Almeda Beynon plays well with the echoes of the hall, complementing the lighting of Kelley Shih and music direction by Yeujia Low. With no set, the actors give an athletic performance to fill the space with physicality. Nothing looks accidental in a show this meticulous. Julia Sears has demanded discipline from her troops and every one of them carries their rifle with expert precision.
Runs until 5 August 2017