A World Premiere
By Megan Carney
Directed by Tara Mallen
Ar Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Chicago
Riveting glimpse into the first-person interviews with women who have laid their lives on the front lines.
After four years of research and interviews of over 70 women military veterans, Megan Carney and the creatives at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble have mounted a stage worthy look at the lives of a sampling of the 1.8 million female U. S. veterans. Today’s American military is nearly 15% female and many serve on the front lines and in battle zones yet we hardly ever hear about their images, tales of war, nor their injuries and troubles upon returning or leaving the service. Women At War is a riveting, realistic and profoundly insightful glimpse into the motivation, dedication and sheer determination of these women.
We meet eight women from the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force that include a white thirty-year Army Colonel to a Black recruit to an assortment of enlisted women, mostly of color, ranging from a drill sergeant to various technical and support personal – all of which have served in combat zones in Iraq or Afghanistan. In a fast pace and highly theatrical production, we learn about why this women felt the need to serve their country. Patriotism, the need for adventure, the uplifting of personal development, the lure of command, the sense of achievement, and the attempt to change their living conditions – all play into why women join the military. These motivations mirror why men also join the military but we also learn that many women have the added motivation to prove to themselves and society that they can do what it takes to be successful in the military.
Women At War also speaks to the unique problems women face in the military. From being basically unwelcome by the male military establishment to the different stress levels women experience to the constant harassment to physical assaults (by fellow troupers) to the basic loneliness and fears of combat zone life, women are still learning survival techniques that present more problems than males ever faced. The mixing of genders in stressful and fearful confined circumstances often leads to victimization of women.
This telling production never preaches but earnestly presents the plight of women especially upon their return from deployment to their often complicated return home and their struggles returning to civilian life. Society just doesn’t appreciate or understand that women experienced the same stress and emotions that males soldiers encountered. This 70 minute work dramatizes and puts faces on these basically unknown issues.
Kudos to the cast: Rengin Altay, Mary Cross, Danielle Davis, Susan Gaspar, Brittani Aflandis Green, Cynthia Hines (an actual Army veteran of eleven years service), Krystel V. McNeil, Paula Ramirez and Charli Williams. The accuracy of military procedures, the proper uniforms and military language gave the production a startling authenticity . The cast marched and shouted cadence drills marvelously. Any veterans in the audience could easily relate. Women At War is an insightful and important work that needs to be seen. Its about time society deals with the plight of all service personal who protect us – especially the almost forgotten personal: the women.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: November 8, 2011
For more info checkout the Women At War page at theatreinchicago.com
At Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge, Chicago, IL, call 773-334-7728, www.rivendelltheatre.org, tickets $32 – $35, student, senior, active military, veteran $22- $25, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm, running time is 70 minutes without intermission, through December 8, 2014