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InFusion Theatre Company at Chopin Theatre. By Andrea Stolowitz. Directed by Mitch Golob. With Meredith Rae Lyons, Nick Freed, Andrew Saenz, TinseyRose Torres, AnJi White. 1hr 25mins; no intermission.
Theater review by Dan Jakes
A marine captain stands in the shadow of Odysseus, both literally and figuratively, in Andrea Stolowitz's new drama about the battle coming home. Dressed in full regalia, the Trojan warrior tacks on an early disclaimer in a prologue that otherwise borders on being a little on the nose: "How can I speak to those who've not been there?" To better answer this and lend credibility to her modern military parable, playwright Andrea Stolowitz spoke to those who were there—about fifty soldiers, mostly women Marines—in order to form a composite look at the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a recent interview with Nari Safavi on WBEZ's Worldview, Stolowitz touches on how there is no real reliable narrator for the experience of surviving war. One soldier's anecdote relating reality to The Hurt Locker, say, is another's go-to example for misguided depictions or hyperbole. ("It's nothing like it.") Those divergent experiences are easily the most compelling part of any drama tackling something with the scope and impact of battle, and there's a real sense of earnestness and caution in her portrayal. It's curious, then, how little of those different perspectives Ithaka includes.
Instead, we mostly focus on one soldier, Lanie (Meredith Rae Lyons), who is having trouble re-adjusting to the banalities of civilian life. Mitch Golob's production for InFusion sets Lanie's story against a digital, often mesmerizing backdrop with video designs by Liviu Pasare. Much more sober, though, are the scenes in front of it. Distant, tense, obsessed with finding her missing cat and straying emotionally from her husband (Nick Freed), Lanie withdraws herself deeper into a fugue state and the memories of a fellow soldier (AnJi White). Joyriding in the American desert, Lanie transforms from a PTSD diagnostic sketch to a full-bodied character. White's charisma when paired with Lyons helps both Lanie, and ultimately Stolowitz's play, come alive. The rest seems subject to Lanie's daze.