Lisa Velten Smith and Sarah Saunders in Silent Heroes
Photo by Jim Baldassare
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
In Linda Escalera Baggs's powerful Silent Heroes, Miranda (Sarah Saunders), a flag-burning, Vietnam War protesting, 70s love-promoting assertive woman turned Marine wife, can scarcely believe the predicament she's in. Her dreams of becoming a lawyer and living the unsheltered life are now squandered by her husband's aviator ones. Even worse, she's getting instruction on Marine base life by a gaggle of Stepford wives that form her dysfunctional circle.
Tonight, 1975, it’s a crash course on what to expect, for they have gathered on Nick Francone's tight, realistically-furnished tarmac waiting room to discover the identity of a fighter pilot that recently crashed and burned. These women don’t say much that’s positive about being a Marine Corps aviator’s wife, and why should they? Pregnant and battered Patsy (Julie Jesneck), hard-edged Eleanor (Rosalie Tenseth), “stay out of it” Kitty (Lisa Velten Smith), nurse and sole African-American Felicia (Dionne Audain) and the stoic leader June (Kelly Ann Moore) all know better.
Baggs's crafty, cheeky, and exciting dialogue gives the cast great material to work with; the stellar performances give Baggs’s play something to live for. With characters that are as different as night and day, there's always something thrilling, intellectually stimulating, compelling, or a combination of the three going on. This helps Silent Heroes to smoothly cover a wide spectrum of issues (Vietnam babies to civil rights) in an effortless, wonderful way. It also allows for quick shifts in mood: one minute, these strong women facetiously recite the Corps mantra, the next, they’re launching into an impassioned monologue about the need for patriotism. And when the moment is still and the hysteria dies down, Jonathan Sanborn's chilling aircraft sound effects reminds the audience of the premise.
Aside from Rosemary Andress’s questionable blocking (characters occasionally speak with their back to the audience or obstruct sightlines), Silent Heroes is nearly flawless. These women may not be on the frontline, but their loyalty to the U.S. Flag and their husbands is of the utmost importance. Silent Heroes is a portrait of valiance at its best, unsung in its contribution, but loud and memorable just the same.
Silent Heroes (1 hr, 45 min., no intermission)
Shetler Studios (244 West 54th St., 12th Fl., NY NY)
TICKETS: 800-838-3006. $18.
Through January 24th.