I was present for the opening night of the current production of A Piece of My Heart, written by Shirley Lauro and directed by Marianne Diquattro. The show runs in the Annie Russell from February 17-25. As always, Rollins students receive one free ticket to performances at the Annie.
Rather than telling the stories of soldiers in the Vietnam War, A Piece of My Heart provides a uniquely female perspective regarding the conflict, following the lives of six American women into Vietnam and back at home in the United States.
The beginning of the play reflects the optimistic attitude many Americans held at the beginning of the Vietnam War. Most of the characters were going to Vietnam to prove themselves by gaining experience in nursing, moving up in their military careers, or—as in one case—serving as an inspirational singer for the American troops.
A Piece of My Heart emphasizes the troubles women faced while involved in the Vietnam War. The sexualization and assault of several of the main characters emphasize a concern that male soldiers did not have to worry over. In general, the characters find themselves trapped by the war in a foreign country, with restrictive rules and regulations. The entrapment of women combined with the sexual harassment that occurred throughout the war reminds the audience of the differences in how those who served during Vietnam War were treated.
In general, the characters find themselves trapped by the war in a foreign country, with restrictive rules and regulations.
The play also focused on horrors of war in general. An important theme throughout the show was the relationship between inexperience and age. The characters playing nurses all felt unprepared and terrified of what they had to handle while saving soldiers during the war. Often mentioned were the young ages of passing soldiers and victims, including an eighteen-year-old soldier who frantically calls out for his mother just before dying.
Relationships play a key role, showing how easily bonds were forged while fighting together in Vietnam. Relationships are built up, only to be dashed instantly as a land mine is triggered or a battle waged. As a result, the women take up drinking, smoking marijuana, and detaching themselves from the horrors around them as a way to escape.
The second act of the play follows the women as they return to the United States, eager and relieved to be heading home in one piece. Yet the mental trauma of the war lingers with the characters for the rest of their lives, making them incapable of returning to normal. After two decades of recovery, the play ends with the sense that the women are able to reflect on their time in Vietnam with less hatred and fear than originally.
While the themes and plot of the play were original and unique, I found the use of such a small cast to tell the stories of many to be extremely confusing. I could not tell when one character was playing themselves or someone else. The play wasn’t as cohesive and flowing as it could have been, making it difficult to follow along.
However, the actors were able to change outfits and characters easily. Though the plot was sometimes muddled, I thought the play was unique in the overall perspective it took towards representation in the Vietnam War. I would recommend seeing the play if you have time, considering it gives the women of the Vietnam War a voice they haven’t often been afforded.