nytheatre.com review by Peter Schuyler
August 20, 2008
[Taken from the press materials]: In May 2001, Chicago writer/actress/educator/mom Mary Scruggs decided to join over 300 motorcycle enthusiasts on the "Run for the Wall"—an annual cross-country pilgrimage to commemorate the dead and missing soldiers of the Vietnam War.
I don't normally go in for one-person shows. I find them by turns narcissistic, banal, and altogether not my theatrical cup of tea. Autobiographical one-person shows I find even more grating. I have my own life to live, why would I want to spend an hour listening to yours? How does the performer expect an audience member to believe that their story is new and fresh every night? Where does the line between anecdote end and self-flagellation begin? So I go into the theatre with an attitude that screams: "Entertain me. I DARE you."
Mary Scruggs did better than that, she shared with me. I felt less like I was watching a performance and more like I was visiting a friend after she had just returned from a long vacation. She has an ebullient, charming air, and is genuinely pretty damn funny. Her tale, however, is not. Scruggs has a lot to tell us, and the majority of it is not light and airy. The people she met on the trip are largely damaged, veterans of a war that America would rather forget. The loss these men feel is retold palpably by Scruggs, but the focus is most definitely on her. She went on the ride in a very turbulent time in her life and some of the most heartbreaking moments have little or nothing to do with being on the road.
Edward Thomas-Herrera's direction is very hands-off, or it gives the impression of being so. He is wise enough to recognize Scruggs's natural storytelling talent and spares us the bells, whistles and (most mercifully) the impersonations. Boaz Reisman's sound design doesn't overpower the action, but it can be jarring, especially after moments when the atmosphere has become very still.
Being the son of a Vietnam vet I may be an easy target for this show, but I don't think so. This is an honest, human account of a woman's life and frankly there is something here for everyone. In light of the war our country is currently embroiled in, it's very important that we remember that the soldiers who come home need as much support as those still in the field. Do yourself a favor. Go see Mary.