Everyone knows that war takes a toll on the family and loved ones left behind when a solider leaves to serve his country in a war zone. With the advent of 24/7 news via television and the internet, it’s possible now to find out about the death of your child even before the dreaded arrival of a solider at your door to inform you of your loss.
Presented by Human Revolution Entertainment, the world premiere of “My Child: Mothers Of War,” based on her award-winning documentary and directed by Angeliki Giannakopoulos, runs through May 31, on Sundays at 7 p.m. at the Hudson Backstage Theatre located at 6530 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood.
The world premiere of “My Child: Mothers Of War” is based on Giannakopoulos’ award winning documentary of the same name, which aired nationally on PBS. Composed of a collection of true intertwining monologues telling stories of six mothers whose lives were radically changed when their sons were sent to fight the war in Iraq, the play focuses on the struggle women face before, during and after their child leaves their protective arms and learns to be an adult on the battlefield, whether or not they ever return home.
Seated on six chairs placed side-by-side across center stage, Frances Fisher, Melina Kanakaredes, Mimi Rogers, Laura Ceron, Monique Edwards and Anna Giannotis each represent different mothers with their own very different opinions about war, politics, social and cultural issues ranging from liberal to conservative, agnostic to deeply religious. Despite these strong differences, as mothers they all share a limitless love for their children as well as fearing for their lives each day they are gone. These American mothers represent women throughout history and in every part of the world who have ever sent a child to war.
Maria Nicolacakis joins in from the shadows as a mother who chillingly reminds us how severe wartime injuries can be horrific to deal with once a soldier returns home. No mention is made of PTSD during the show, although most vets will tell you it is at the root of many problems, especially being homeless, for those returning from war.
Jean Smart will join the cast for the last two weekends of the run as she is currently filming in Canada. Checkwww.mychildthemovie.com for the specific schedule for each actress.
As the mothers tell their individual stories, it become apparent their sons wound up together while serving our country. First we hear about the joy of raising their sons, all good boys who each choose to go into the military for different reasons – either for the education they will receive afterwards at no cost to their parents to their deep desire to go after those thought to have instigated 9/11.
Interspersed during their monologues are bits of historical film from the time, many with President Bush speaking about the need to go after what turned out to be the non-existent weapons of mass destruction. One of the boys was, according to his mother, in boot camp on 9/11, an event that changed their perspective on his mission from peace to wartime.
As the mothers speak, stories of what their sons told them was going on in boot camp and overseas during their time on duty is played out by Brendan Connor, Rydell Danzie, Michael J. Knowles, Nick Marini, Randy Mulkey, Anthony Rey Perez, Ozzy Ramirez and Jah Shams, representing their sons as well as the officers training or in charge of them on the battlefield. There are several welcome lighthearted moments in the play between the men including a scene in which the boys come out in combat gear, guns blazing as they position themselves around the stage as well as in the audience, and then settle down for a stress-relieving chat about how cold it is, needing food and women, all as they await the next instance of enemy fire. “How can you fight an enemy you cannot see,” one of them asks, “especially when they know the territory so much better than you do?” I remember thinking the same thing about soldiers during the Vietnam War as I watched the warfare play out on television.
Especially moving is the story told by Monique Edwards as a deeply religious black mother who believes as long as her son follows God’s word and does not live in fear that he will survive and come back to her. When she takes a call from him, played with deep conviction Jah Shams, as soon as he admits to his fear for his life and how much he just wants to come home, we know his fate is sealed.
Frances Fisher is especially heart wrenching as she walks up to her son’s grave, kneels down and lays her hands on it, then breaks down crying just as a solider arrives to apologize for not being there to save him. This super strong, conservative mother puts her own feelings aside, immediately develops a backbone and demands the young man to not live his life filled with regret but to be happy just as she wished her son to live his own life. Her personal sacrifice may not make any sense to her, but at least bitterness has not stopped her from reaching out to others in need.
The mothers of soldiers worldwide all have children who have been killed, maimed, or are in daily peril of their lives, as well as those who had the courage to refuse service. No matter their home country, religious or political affiliations, they all share one common denominator: their love for their child. They are the mothers of war and their voices are finally being heard loud and clear thanks to Angeliki Giannakopoulos.
Tickets are $30 and may be ordered at www.plays411.com/mychild or by calling (818) 963-8219. The running time is 75 minutes without an intermission.