Wars Within A War – A Piece of My Heart at Little Theater Norfolk

A scene from L.T.N's A Piece of My Heart. A serviceman comforts a nurse.

Words by Nathan M. Jacques
Photos by Lisa Hogan

A Piece of My Heart, written by Shirley Lauro, tells the story of six women who found themselves thrust into the middle of the chaos of the controversial Vietnam War. Although bonded and united by their common duty to care for a multitude of war casualties, each woman faced their own internal battles alone.

Director Kelly Gilliam and Assistant Director Kathryn Finney, taking the helm of the Little Theatre of Norfolk’s production of this compelling piece, have essentially crafted a work of art. The Little Theatre of Norfolk’s production of A Piece of My Heart is easily one of the best presentations personally experienced to date at this venue.

Although this story was based on the Vietnam War, many of the issues presented in the piece are applicable to today’s men and women of the armed forces- particularly the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. The women portrayed in the story must rapidly adjust to their harsh, unpredictable surroundings in order to save American lives during the conflict- clearly foreshadowing their post-war adjustments back into civilian society- which was also harsh for those who returned from Vietnam. 

A Piece of My Heart requires a cast of actors that is able to portray a wide range of characters and also reach extraordinary levels of emotional intensity. Director Gilliam has assembled a dream-team of actors for this production. The cast consists of Peyton Henderson, Corenn Holmes, Louise Casini Hollis, Moriah Joy, Samantha Santee, Sami Topping, and Peter Scheible.  Every actor selected for this production was cast superbly for each role(s).

A scene from L.T.N's A Piece of My Heart. Nurses react to their surroundings.

Witnessing each actor embody and transition into a different character was astounding to say the least. The cast tasked with said transitions demonstrates the impressive level of talent present in this production.  As the show progresses, each character wrestles with the impact of the war on their lives physically and mentally both during the war and years after the conflict.

The show’s pacing reflects that of what one would expect a warzone would have. One moment peace- in the next moment, total chaos.  Lauro’s writing, combined with the skill of this cast and crew, gives a terrifying (and effective) glimpse into the madness of what these American heroes witnessed.

A scene from L.T.N's A Piece of My Heart. An intelligence officer talks about her struggle getting people to listen to her reports.

The collaboration between set designer Terry Flint, lighting designer B. Butterbaugh, sound designer Charles Owrey, costumer Kathy Hinson, and props master Robin Martineau complements and accentuates the journey the actors share with the audience. The set for A Piece of My Heart is simplistic, yet effective.  Impressive also was the fact that every item on stage served a purpose which kept the scenes uncluttered with no distractions.

Without delving too deep into spoiler territory, a handful of scenes often transitioned from serene to intense situations within a matter of seconds. These moments emphasized the powerful lighting and sound design of this production. 

The entire cast, crew, and production team have done a superb job in telling the story of six women who found camaraderie within chaos and reminding us that for some, wars don’t always end on a battlefield.

This particular production, part of the the Norfolk Theatre Festival, is nothing short of a master class in theatrical genius. 

UPDATE:
Out of an abundance of caution, and due to concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), LTN has decided to cancel the final two weekends of performances, and ticket sales have been suspended for the rest of this weekend.

A Piece of My Heart runs through March 15th at the Little Theatre of Norfolk.

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