New York premier of insightful new play at 59E59 Theaters recounts the tragedy of Vietnam War with inventive staging and sincere performances.
By: Patrick Christiano
October 25, 2017: Nancy Bannon and Mollye Maxner have co-authored Occupied Territories, an ambitious new play about the effects of the Vietnam War on one family. The drama, nicely helmed by Mollye Maxner and starring Nancy Bannon in a heartfelt performance as Jude, the daughter of a recently deceased Vietnam Veteran, opened at 59E59 Theaters on Wednesday. Kelley Rae O’Donnell plays Jude’s sister Helena, and Ciela Elliott plays her daughter Alex, who has been in Helena’s care while Jude was away at a drug rehabilitation facility.
Jude returns home, two weeks clean, to attend her estranged father’s funeral. Once home, she is haunted by the ghosts of his past in the basement of the family home, where the play is set. Rummaging through the deceased man’s possessions on the day before his funeral, Jude clashes with her sister Helena, and faces her long-held beliefs about her father and her family. The drama inventively moves back and forth from the safe basement setting, to the war-torn jungles of Vietnam with an intimate staging that is both powerful and resonate.
If all the elements of the production don’t completely mesh all the time, the playwrights, nonetheless, have an excellent ear for dialogue, and the staging’s visually jolting flashback sequences are terrific, giving an evocatively real glimpse of the war. The scenes in Vietnam juxtaposed against the scenes at home in the cozy basement make for, an often, dynamic and engrossing evening.
The excellent cast also features Diego Aguirre, Donte Bonner, Nile Harris, Thony Mena, Cody Robinson, Scott Thomas, and Nathan Jan Yaffe.
The design team includes Brian MacDevitt (production design); Andrew R. Cohen (set design); Rob Siler (lighting design); Mathew M. Nielsen (sound design and original music); and Kelsey Hunt (costume design). OCCUPIED TERRITORIES is choreographed by Kelly Maxner. The Production Stage Manager is Kaelyn Kreicbergs.
Produced by Theater Alliance of Washington, DC & Available Potential Enterprises, MA at 59E59 Theaters at 59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues The performance schedule is Wednesday – Thursday at 7:15 PM, Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM and 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM.
To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org. $20 discounted tickets are available to Veterans, Retired, and Active Military. Photos: Colin Hyde
Photos: Colin Hovde