Who Appleseed Productions
Where 116 West Glen Ave., Syracuse
When March 3 – 18
Tickets $18; $15 seniors and students; $12 Senior Sundays
Review by Christina Riley
“Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.”
The famous quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is the title of Allan Kenward’s play. From those words, Shakespeare imagined a story about a conspiracy against a Roman dictator, but Kenward penned a play featuring an all-female cast of nurses who experience World War II.
Kenward’s original stage play was later produced as a critically acclaimed MGM film in 1943. Lois Haas directs Appleseed’s production of the three-act Cry Havoc, which features a cast of 13 women.
Cry Havoc tells the emotional story of nine army nurses who tend to the wounded soldiers on the Bataan Peninsula during the war. The play begins with Doc (Judy Schmid), Smitty (Theresa Constantine) and Flo (Kathleen Whipple) in the converted gun barracks preparing for the new batch of volunteer nurses. Most of the newbies have little to no relevant combat training. They come as volunteers with backgrounds in art, music, knitting and burlesque dancing, but quickly gain their footing with the help of Smitty, who serves as the stern, yet motherly figure of the troop.
Constantine is one of the standout actresses of the cast. She carries a soft, but demanding presence in statue and voice. When she speaks the troop listens and so does the audience. “Do you think the men will want what’s left of us?” one of the nurse asks the others during one of the more trying parts of battle. Smitty reassures them that what they’re doing what is necessary and that they are greatly appreciated.
As the war progresses and air raids get closer and closer to the barracks, the amateur troops learn the ways of war. Each of the women is affected and copes with the horrors of combat in their own way. Tensions rise when word of a traitor is passed through the camp and someone from their barrack is suspected of giving intelligence to the enemy.
Steve (a believable Jody Agostinelli) attempts to sort out issues of her personal identity when harshly confronted by a wounded Grace (a delicious Rita Worlock). Sue (Maggie Rossler) is plagued by a mental illness after an early incident with an air raid. Pat (an incredible Sharon Sorkin) and Smitty share moments of verbal tension. Pat thinks Smitty dislikes her. Smitty thinks Pat is just a hot head. The two are at odds with each other most of the play.
All of these individual events lead to unexpected fatal confrontations and the revelation of the strength and integrity of the women.
The play is a gripping commentary on the effects of war told from the often-unaddressed point of view of women — volunteers no less. Kenward’s play doesn’t glamourize the harsh reality of wartime for the women, but rather depicts the tenacity and heart within a determined group of nurses.
Director Haas and the solid cast retain Kenward’s honesty and skillfully bring this gritty truth to the stage. Each actress donned in army fatigues and nurses’ satchels holds their own and gives the production the realness and raw emotion needed for such a heavy subject. Despite a few technical sound effect glitches, Appleseed’s production presents a very worthwhile telling of Cry Havoc.