Long before 1948 when President Harry S. Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, allowing females to serve as full members of the United States Armed Forces, women have enlisted in the military. Hartford Stage is mounting the world premiere of T. D. Mitchell's gripping and riveting drama "Queens for a Year" until Sunday, October 2, focusing on how four generations of military women have served proudly and honorably.
A long time has passed since 1918 when Private Opha Mae Johnson enlisted as the first female Marine Reserve, but the way women are treated, respected or disrespected, is a less than memorable commentary. That tarnishing is the painful subject of "Queens for a Year," a denigrating term for a female Marine where looks, even if ugly, allow her to slack off and be treated as royalty by the males of the unit.
Welcome to the ranks of 2nd Lieutenant Molly Walker Solinas, a sturdy and stable Vanessa R. Butler, who with pride joins a long line of military enlistees. She serves as did her mother Mae (Mary Bacon), her aunt Lucy (Heidi Armbruster), her grandmother (Charlotte Maier) and her feisty great-grandmother (Alice Cannon). Molly is a respected officer in the Marine Corps who is faced with a monumental dilemma: a private first class has confided that she has been raped by a fellow serviceman.
When going through the proper channels of communication fail to get PFC Amanda Lewis, a conflicted Sarah Nicole Deaver, any satisfaction or justice, Molly takes Amanda and runs to a place of sanctuary, her home in Virginia. Once home,a platoon of buried secrets explode and divide the family unit.
The blood, guts, dangers and risks of training and combat are all too starkly balanced against the real and present problem of sexual assault. T. D. Mitchell does not sky away from the brutality of the charge or the distinct likelihood that the females making it will be vilified and disbelieved. Jamie Rezanour gives a powerful indictment of exactly how little support the military provides to the accuser.
This "sisterhood" of women are continually tested, their sacrifices to serve questioned. It is a drama about their nobility as survivors and as female warriors. the pace is intense and emotionally exhausting as they place everything they value clearly on the line. Mat Hustler is the sole male on stage, the brunt of the belligerence and bullying. the cast is uniformly excellent under the steady hand of director Lucie Tiberghien.
For tickets ($25 and up), call the hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Listen to the cadences of the military as they echo the rhythm, the gallantry and commitment, the sacrifices and demands of what it costs to serve. Your mind and heart will be opened to their stories.