A Piece of My Heart is now playing at the Buddy Rogers Playhouse in Olathe, Kan. Produced by the Olathe Civic Theatre Association the play written by Shirley Lauro is the story of six women who go to Vietnam. Five of the women are nurses and one is an entertainer for the USO. Lauro does a fantastic job with the script in character and plot development. Whether it’s the entertainer who looks at the year-long assignment as a paid vacation that will booster her career, or the nurse who thinks she can request to serve in Hawaii the play looks into the heart and soul of each person.
With a minimum of props and scenery Betsy Sexton the director has brought to the stage the most powerful of performances to be seen in Kansas City. This is the second time Sexton has directed this play, she directed it for the Summit Theatre Group in 2012.
It would be impossible to pick out a performer that out-shined any of the others. Each wasn’t just acting, their individual performances took the production to a height that transported the audience into the show. It was as if each cast member was living and feeling the roles that they were representing. At one point Andy Tyhurst who plays the Man was lying on his back on a table, his legs dangling over the end. The nurses explain that he is a double amputee and it is at this point that I saw him as the amputee, no longer paying attention to the legs that were hanging freely. Wow, what an experience that was!
Usually somewhat depressing shows are not my cup of tea. This performance was so well done that it was impossible to not thoroughly engulf yourself into what was occurring on stage. More than once the sound of sniffles could be heard from audience members as their hearts were touched by the performance. Near reality was what the audience felt as the screams and scenes unfolded. At times it was hard to understand some of the dialogue as everyone on stage spoke at once. This gave the production the sense of urgency and chaos that must have transpired in Vietnam.
To make the scenes as realistic as possible Lou Eisenbrandt and Kathy Lee were brought in as counselors. Both served in Vietnam between 1969 and 1970. Both have or will be involved in talk backs during the production.
A Piece of My Heart stars; Devon Barnes as Mary Jo, Meghann Bates as Martha (a reprisal of the role she performed for the Summit Theatre Group), Diane Bulan as Steele, Alli Tunnel as Whitney, Erika Crane Ricketts as Lee Ann and Andy Tyhurst as the Man. Em Loper plays Sissy the singer, guitar player who sings songs of the era throughout the show. Besides be a fine dramatic actress she has a superb singing voice.
A Piece of My Heart continues at the Olathe Civic Theatre Association’s Buddy Roger Playhouse through November 3.