Reviewed by David Walters
What’s great about Wounded is the story behind the headlines of injured warriors returning home, the people who are there to welcome them with open arms and hearts. The story of the service men and women who have returned is known, but the heroes behind them and the courage and love required to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and their attempts to glue a couple of those pieces back together in some semblance of recognition is not often told.
Angelica (Tanya Gorlow) has been the caregiver for her husband Tommy (wonderfully acted by Scott Kuza) for five years. He was previously known as Thomas, but the Thomas of before never returned from the Iraq war and Angelica now calls him Tommy out of that deep longing and sadness for the man he was. She misses the closeness of a relationship that she no longer has as Tommy, because of shrapnel wounds to his head and legs, can barely walk, cannot physically take care of himself and has no cognitive abilities of conversation or understanding. Tommy can recognize things and partially say the names of people and objects, but is infantilized in every other way. They get by on their checks from the government. Angelica dropped everything about her life out of love for her husband to become his full-time caregiver. She had been studying to be an architect and left with the hope to someday be able to pick up where she left off in school. That’s two wounded people.
The play opens when Angelica brings Samuel (Kyle Felts) in to her life and home to help take over the caregiver role that is swallowing her (“I read that being a caretaker takes ten years off your life. Some days I say, Good.”), freeing her to begin picking up the pieces that she had put on hold, and to become her lover and companion providing the human closeness she had with her husband that no longer exists. This arrangement leaves her immensely conflicted as she still loves her husband deeply, both body and soul, and clings desperately to the hope that someday he may overcome his injures and become her Thomas again. Thus, all connections with Samuel are desperate and needy bound to come to a messy conclusion.
As it turns out, Samuel is himself a veteran of the Iraq war and has his own demons that come roaring to the surface when confronted by tension and loud noises. He is estranged from his wife and no longer allowed to see his only daughter due to his coming unglued at a skating rink. He lies and twists the truth in order to be the man he wants himself to be. Angelica and Tommy are a life-ring to him as he’s trying to hang on to the scraps of a former life and he uses them to try and pull himself out from the waves that are drowning him. That’s three wounded people.
Angelica tries to help Samuel with his PTSD, getting him to see a therapist, and he learns some tools in order to dampen his demons, but to no avail. All three characters end up using each other to try and patch their unpatchable wounds. There are no winners in war; tragedy lives on both sides.
That’s the good part.
The bad part (and I won’t linger here), unfortunately, is the execution. This production is one note heavily played over and over again, missing the humanity of our conflicted emotions and desires, the light mixed with the dark that makes up all our tragic lives. Wounded has good bones, but the skin, what we see, needs a good caregiver.
I need to highlight The Fringe Encore Series that Wounded is part of. It’s a great opportunity to see shows that have won awards from fringe festivals around the globe. The Fringe Encore Series assembled the “Best of the Fests” from around the world (Brighton, Edinburgh, Hollywood, Limerick, Orlando, Toronto and New York) and gave them a short run at The Soho Playhouse. The full series is running through December 16, 2018. Tickets are $39/$25 and can be purchased by visiting www.fringeencores.org. There’s a lot of really cool stuff that they’ve brought to New York, something for everyone: comedy, drama, family musicals, cabaret shows. It’s a wonderful opportunity for theater lovers to experience “the best of” from around the world. Do take a look at the many wonderful offerings and go see something magical.
Wounded – Written by Kerry Kazmierowicztrimm; Directed by Liz Lanier
WITH: Tanya Gorlow (Angelica), Scott Kuza (Tommy), Kyle Felts (Samuel)
Through December 16 at The Fringe Encore Series, Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, NYC 10013