The silent heroes of the title finally find their voices in Linda Escalera Baggs' tough-minded take on the heartbreaks and hardships suffered by the wives of modern warriors, specifically the U.S. Marines. Having grown up a Marine brat, the playwright obviously knows whereof she speaks, although the play is a definite eye-opener for the rest of us.
It's 1975, and six wives of Marine aviators have been summoned to a Marine air base because one of their husbands' planes has crashed, but no one knows which one. The women, five of them veteran service wives, are called on to play a waiting game. Tension is high and tempers are frayed, more so because the youngest, Miranda (sweetly naive Cynthia Rose Hall), new to their group, was involved in anti-war activities at Kent State in 1970, putting her patriotism in question. The Marine wives are loyal to the core, and to the Corps, even though, as the play progresses, unacceptable truths surface in each of the women's marriages.
Using each woman as poster child for a specific war-wives' syndrome, the argument turns on domestic violence and spousal abuse (Kitty, a searingly fine Heather Simon), serial infidelity (Eleanor, a defensively prickly Eileen Grubba), silent and not so silent racism in the Corps (Felicia, feisty fireball Nadege August), and the unequal treatment of women and the burden of keeping the family together (Patsy, the stately Leslie Ann Thompson). June (Jane Hajduk in cool control), as a woman who has lost one husband to a plane crash yet has married another pilot, tries to hold the group together as they are collectively falling apart. Despite what seems like annoyingly petty bickering at the story's start, the play and the characters become very real and disturbing as the actors find their way into their roles, under the sure hand of director Carmen Milito.
The issues that fire the women sometimes seem a bit dated, until one remembers the dateline is 1975, and we're in the middle of yet another war. Together, this promising group makes you think as well as feel, which is where every good play should take you.
Presented by the VetStage Foundation at Gardner Stages,
1501 N. Gardner St., Hollywood.
Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Nov. 30-Dec. 22.
(818) 308-6296. www.vetstage.org.