nytheatre.com review by Peter Schuyler
August 10, 2008
The Warrior is the story of Tammy, a two-tour Iraq vet with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She has been back in this country for some time and things on the home front have not been going well. Her husband is having an affair with her young daughter's former teacher, and he has just successfully gained sole custody due to Tammy's instability. The only person who seems to be on her side is Gisele, an amateur documentary filmmaker and high school friend who convinces her to relate her experiences on film to expose what the cost of war really is. The show is all one scene, with Tammy and the voice of Gisele having a dialogue about her war experience and her inability to adjust to life at home. Unfortunately this is less dialogue than it is a platform for the writer's pop psychology.
Jack Gilhooley's script is a hard pill to swallow. Having worked for a psychiatric center in the past, I was required to know a quite a bit about the various disorders we were treating, PTSD being one of the more common. I found the writer's depiction of the disorder to be very far off the mark*. Where most PTSD sufferers shut down internally and avoid any mention or contact with the source of their stress, Tammy rages against the injustices heaped upon her in an increasingly bizarre manner; at one point she produces a hand-puppet of her husband which she uses to act out scenes of spousal abuse. Even less credible is her decision to seek violent revenge against her husband instead of running away with her daughter, whom she professes to love more than anything in the world for the entire show. Her behavior more closely resembles a psychotic episode, not PTSD.
Juxtaposed with the writing is Kevin Murray's subtle direction. I found his staging one of the few redeeming qualities of the production. As more and more props are pulled from Tammy's duffel, they are arranged in such a manner as to suggest the detritus of a life in ruins, helping us see how deeply Tammy is wounded. Sad to say, these small parts do not salvage the whole.
Like the script, the performances are uneven. Marietta Elaine Hedges as Tammy is all spittle and fire, taking every opportunity to play up the manic aspects of the character. When she isn't shouting, singing, or hitting herself with a puppet, she is trading stilted anti war rhetoric with Mary Lechter as Gisele. We never see Lechter on stage, and her voiceover (performed live) takes on a quality more reminiscent of HAL in Kubrick's 2001 than a real person.
The most disappointing part of The Warrior was the feeling of missed opportunity. The concept of the show is sound, and frankly we need to see more honest and direct stories about the plight of the female soldier. Unfortunately that is not what is being offered here. If you're looking for the woman's perspective on the war (or the war at home), you will have to look elsewhere.
* For more information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and treatment options, check out the National Institute of Mental Health's website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml.