A Piece of My Heart | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Piece of My Heart



A Piece of My Heart, Attic Playhouse. Shirley Lauro's 1988 stage adaptation of Keith Walker's book about women who served in the Vietnam war is dated and offers no new insights--and unfortunately director Jean Losquadro takes no risks. Mostly made up of intertwined first-person accounts by six women based on the oral histories of female vets, the play will be familiar to anyone who's seen reruns of M*A*S*H or China Beach.

Three of the women are nurses (Regina Webster, Julie Hurt, and Jennie Lamb, who does a nice turn in the meatiest part), one is a naive USO entertainer (Keri Lindstrom Elser, who has a lovely voice), one is an intelligence officer (Monica Y. Gibson), and one is a prim Vassar girl turned Red Cross worker (Ann Marie Heiman). Jon Cunningham does a nice job playing a variety of characters, from oafish GIs to needy patients to boorish military brass. We see the women decide to go to war, get screwed over when it comes to their choice of assignments, then try to serve without being overwhelmed by gore and their own fear.

But the play never feels centered around women because they're always talking about men--how men need them, leave them, or bully them--and so their monologues come off as whiny instead of impassioned, angst-ridden, or strong. The play just goes downhill in the second act, which focuses on an insipid encounter group.

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