Bread is Not Enough’s inaugural production, A Piece of my Heart, is a moving, though not fully realized, portrayal of women’s experiences in the Vietnam War.
The story of six women’s experiences in the Vietnam War, A Piece of my Heart follows a Red Cross volunteer, three nurses, an entertainer, a career army woman, and the men that surround them.
While the form of six separate stories strung together seemed flimsy at the start, A Piece of my Heart soon begins to move forward with touching moments of honesty, and authentic human experiences leaving you wanting more. The cast of seven perform with refreshing openness and bravery.
We get to experience these women’s journeys, from deciding to join the war to their time in Vietnam, to their attempt at fitting back into their previous lives. With its bare bones set and overall feel, it all helps in highlighting the stories being told.
The use of rhythm and song throughout the play are also strong, proving necessary moments of catharsis as the intensity of these stories unravel.
Scattered throughout the production are folk songs from the period, sung by the entertainer, Maryjo (Katherine Alpen). Her raw, twangy voice is goose bump inducing. Nina Dosdall, as Sissy, stands out for her moving moments of breakdown.
Director, Julian Legere, deals in this intense material with a sense of honesty and tenderness allowing the audience to connect on a basic human level. There are a couple of violent scenes that do not quite land though, coming across as unrealistic and forced.
There is powerful moment of connection at the Memorial Wall in Washington, where the audience is invited into the story and begins to feel complicit and a sense of ownership.
While the production feels simple and not fully realized in parts, the overall effect is a powerful and tender piece of theatre.
A Piece of My Heart by Shirley Lauro. Directed by Julian Legere. A Bread is Not Enough production. On stage at the PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St, Vancouver) until November 12. Tickets are available online.