Review: ‘The Veils’ at Nu Sass Productions (Women’s Voices Theater Festival)

Written by Hope Villanueva, The Veils explores the dualities of identity and traverses the delicate terrain of PTSD. This show, produced by Nu Sass Productions, is enjoying its world premiere at the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.

Dannielle Hutchinson and Renee Wilson in The Veils. Photo courtesy of Nu Sass Productions.

Mel, the protagonist (played by Schuyler Atkins) is a translator in the Marines who struggles to adjust to civilian life while contending with her controlling sister and mom as they attempt to help her plan her wedding. Through Angela Kay Pirko’s direction, two distinct worlds are created on stage, one of Mel’s home life and the other of her time on a military base in Afghanistan. The play shifts between them to paint a vivid picture of the ghosts of war that have come home to haunt her. There are also times when those worlds converge to creates some of the most emotionally charged scenes in the play.

The script touches on several questions that I enjoyed thinking about as the story unfolded. What does it mean to be a woman and a Marine? What do you do when you can’t run from the ghosts of your past? And how do you mend fractured relationships? Villanueva lets these questions bubble to the surface of the play but ultimately shapes the narrative around family and the struggle to overcome loss.

The standout performance of the ensemble cast was that of Renee Wilson as Harmony. She played the overbearing, type-A big sister to perfection but remained likable and real. There’s a moment when she recounts a story of being with her dad, it’s a scene that moves the audience and makes us more invested in the family’s struggle. Schuyler Atkins also delivers a solid performance and battles her character’s inner demons with emotional complexity.

The sound and lighting design (by Sara O’Halloran and Allie Heiman, respectively) put the audience inside the story rather than leave us on the periphery. From explosions and hallucinations to dramatic sunsets and character voiceovers, the sound and lighting elements intensified the story’s action and created memorable moments.

A few of the prop and costume choices felt inauthentic and some of the acting is stronger than the rest, but this doesn’t tarnish the quality of the show.

Overall, this is a play with a timely message that holds a mirror up to the silent struggles that many of our servicemen and women face both on duty and when they return home. Kudos to Nu Sass Productions, a women-led powerhouse of creative artists, for a job well done on presenting such a bold and original play.

Run Time: One hour and 40 minutes, with a 10-minute intermission.

The Veils runs through Sunday, March 4, 2018, at Nu Sass Productions performing at the Anacostia Arts Center – 1231 Good Hope Rd SE Washington, DC. For tickets contact Nu Sass at 315-783-6650 or go online.

Hope Villanueva (Playwright)

Ms. Villanueva is a stage manager by profession but holds a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Playwriting. She has continued writing on and off since graduating. Her one-act musical, ROOFTOPS, was produced by the university as one of only 6 projects selected for production. It was produced again at Center Stage in Santa Barbara. During her tenure at Honolulu Theatre for Youth, she was selected as one of the writers for Where Do Things Go?, and her play, RENOVATIONS, was mounted as a part of that production and her full-length play, PACIFIC, was given a staged reading at the Next Act! New Play Summit in upstate NY. Most recently, THE VEILS, about a female Marine planning her wedding, was selected for development at The Black and Latino Playwright’s Conference 2016, The Discovery New Play Festival and The Kitchen Dog New Play Festival, and was produced as a podcast by The Parsnip Ship in NYC. The podcast is available on iTunes. Ms. Villanueva also has completed scripts for HER, ACROSS THE RIVER, (an American woman escapes to Thailand after a loss and befriends a novice monk), THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN (about the competitive relationships in a group of young women), a one-man show about Booker T. Washington and a screenplay titled, “Almost There.” In 2017, she was a proud participant in the HBMG National Winter Playwrights’ Retreat. She is also currently developing a modern adaptation of Othello with a lesbian relationship at the center. THE VEILS is receiving its world premiere production as a part of Washington, DC’s Women’s Voices Festival 2018.

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