In The Veils by Hope Villanueva, Melody, a female Marine translator in Afghanistan, has completed her tour of duty and returned stateside trying desperate to pick up the pieces of her life. That includes planning her wedding. Her mother and sister try to support her, but the memories, sights and sounds of the war are only a blink away, literally—her combat soldier buds are always present in her mind and heart.
On top of that, the family is still also grieving the death of the father, her soldier role model, whose agonizing demise and death from Alzheimer’s disease leaves a lingering shadow of guilt and betrayal. The script carefully and tenderly depicts the layers of issues that lie just under the surface of this tightly wound and emotionally scarred soldier. Something as simple as picking out a wedding dress isn’t simple at all.
The scenes shift from the comfy couch at Mom’s house to the hot sands behind the war zone where Melody banters with her fellow troopers, Vargas and Stitch, well played by Vitaly Mayes and Christian Sullivan. At first, the men appear indistinguishable, with their chiseled features, commanding tones, and battle fatigue attire. But when the helmets come off and they talk and share, a bond develops and Villanueva’s script captures their relationships, their personalities, quirks, and absolute commitment and support for each other.
Renée Wilson has great comic timing as Harmony, Melody’s sister (I know, great names, right?) trying to salvage what she sees as a wedding headed straight for disaster if she doesn’t scoop in to save it. Having been saddled with caring for the parents while Melody was deployed, she keeps her resentment tucked away and takes the high ground as the cheerful fixer-upper. She means well but unintentionally makes heavy-handed judgmental decisions and passive/aggressive remarks with the wedding preparations that Melody resists as a “hostile takeover.” Meanwhile, Danielle Hutchinson brings a loving and sturdy reserve as Wendy their Mom, who uses exercise and new normal routines to venture out of her own grief.
Melody, trying to satisfy her father’s final wishes, focuses on accomplishing the mission no matter what, but that puts her at odds with her sister who feels abandoned in handling the family’s needs. Melody can’t shake off the memories of the past, and when the tension builds into a shouting match between the sisters, the anger and resentment bubble over the top, revealing the unspoken ill will that had been veiled away.
closes March 4, 2018
Details and tickets
Schuyler Atkins as Melody, in her first DC production, is a marvel. Her character has so many conflicting tensions inside of her that she’s a walking minefield. Atkins has found a way to fully express all of Melody’s multiple sides, both at home with family and in the zone. Even curled up on the couch in a distressed fetal position talking on the telephone with unseen fiancé Doug, her body language conveys the comfort of his virtual presence.
This world premiere lags in spots with Melody’s continuous anxiety attacks but the interwoven flashback scenes are nicely conceived and performed so the flow works as well as can be expected.
The creative set design by Aubri O’Conner and Joe Largess positions the playing area in the center with the audience flanking along two sides. The living room couch is set on one end and a multi-functional large stone structure works well in the war zone area. Sound (Sarah O’Halloran) is particularly effective with massive explosive bangs that reverberate throughout the small black box at Anacostia Arts Center. At the other end of the audio scale are whispers and water droplets.
Founded by Aubri O’Connor and Emily Todd in 2008, Nu Sass Productions is celebrating ten years of courageous productions, including Nu Drafts and Capital Fringe winners. A small company dedicated to encouraging the arts, Nu Sass “strives to encourage women in all aspects of theater…and aims to create engaging thought-provoking art.” Incubating this fine new work as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, is an example of their reach and innovation – and of course, sass.
The Veils by Hope Villanueva . Directed by Angela Kay Pirko . Cast: Schuyler Atkins, Renée Wilson, Dannielle Hutchinson, Vitaly Mayes,. Christian Sullivan, Barry Carver . Assistant Director and Assistant Producer—Mara Sherman . Set designer— Aubri O’Conner and Joe Largess . Sound design— Sarah O”Halloran . Lighting Design— Allie Heiman . Costume Design— Aubri O’Connor . Fight Coordinator—Christian Sullivan . Stage Manager— Julia Colpitts . Produced by Nu Sass Productions . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.