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BWW Review: WAR IN PIECES at Firehouse Theatre

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World premiere of four one-acts

BWW Review: WAR IN PIECES at Firehouse Theatre Postponed since before the pandemic, "War in Pieces" is a world premiere that brings us the stories of four military veterans through their own one-act plays.

Written as part of The Mighty Pen Project, founded by Richmond writer David L. Robbins, and in cooperation with the Virginia War Memorial Foundation, the four plays are moving and fascinating snapshots of military life, each dramatic in its own way. Performed by a cast of ten, the one-acts are lovingly produced, each enticingly introduced by its playwright in a brief film clip.

The opener is "Guardian Angels," a Vietnam-era play written by Robert Waldruff about the stunning circumstances of his wounding and subsequent evacuation from a harrowing battle zone. Foster Solomon emphasizes the emotion and spiritual underpinnings of the story, featuring impactful performances by Jonathan Hardison as the wounded lieutenant, Dean Knight as his captain, and Dani Brown as both a lifesaving nurse and an ethereal presence.

Next up is "Soar," by Rachel Landsee, whose two tours in Iraq were as an attorney with the Judge Advocate General's Corps. Featuring a lively ensemble, it focuses on the conflicts of military life and family life. Landsee's main character, also named Rachel, jumps out of planes and ponders the morality of the U.S. presence in Iraq, and she strives to stay connected to her husband, who's also in the Army and about to head to the war zone himself. Director Kerrigan Sullivan, working with choreographer Kayla Xavier, realizes Landsee's vision for incorporating movement and music to tell this story, and Irene Kuykendall shows impressive strength as the lead character, navigating the competing demands of her life, with Dean Knight warmly human as her husband.

David M. Aldridge's "Bonne Annee" is the third piece, featuring Jonathan Hardison as David, newly home from Vietnam, struggling to take up civilian life. The inner voice that uncannily kept him safe through the war turns out to operate in his new life as well, carrying him through perilous situations as he navigates home and work. Firehouse's Producing Artistic Director Joel Bassin directs this play, eliciting a deeply felt portrayal from Hardison.

The closing work is "Skyline," by Chuck Williamson, about a mission gone awry in Baghdad. It's a VIP run--a convoy set up to escort an important person to the base. Under Todd Labelle's direction we see the setup--how these four soldiers relate to one another and their environment--and the crisis, when what should have been an easy assignment becomes a life-or-death moment. Dean Knight, Erik DeMario, Keydron Dunn and Jimmy Mello are completely credible as this unified crew.

The production is well served by its designers. Anna Bialkowski provides military and other costumes that set the tone; Dasia Gregg's set features crates that are pressed into service as desks, tables and trucks, and the projections used as backdrops work well to create both place and mood. Andrew Bonniwell's lighting is especially dramatic and versatile.

The lively company contributes mightily to the effect, with wonderful performances by Linda Beringer, Alvan Bolling II, and Makai Walker joining the rest of the cast in multiple roles. A moving and engaging premiere, "War in Pieces" opens us to unique stories that must be told.

"War in Pieces"

At: Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad St.

Through: October 30

Tickets: $30-$35

Info: firehousetheatre.org or (804) 355-2001

Photo credit: Bill Sigafoos


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