- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2008

No hero’s parade awaits disabled Marine veteran Jenny Sutter (Gwendolyn Mulamba). After losing her lower leg in an explosion in Iraq, the 30-year-old soldier and mother of two finds herself in a fetid bus station in California, reluctant to go back to her family and the life she once knew.

Quietly angry and obviously traumatized, Jenny is one hurting soul, and we’re not talking war wounds. Julie Marie Myatt’s promising new play, “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” chronicles her struggles to acclimate while questioning America’s personal responsibility to the soldiers returning home from battle.

The people who help Jenny are not the obvious candidates - friends, family, the Veteran’s Administration - but a ragtag group of squatters on the lam from society in Slab City, an abandoned naval base in southeastern California.

Jenny is brought to the campsite by Lou (Kate Mulligan), a chatty flower child who’s addicted to everything and is the play’s brightest spot; a poster child for the upside of being a yawning vortex of need.

Lou introduces her to an assortment of exceedingly colorful characters: Buddy (David Kelly), a gentle preacher who bears the scars of childhood abuse and delivers rambling, quirky sermons to the assembled every morning; Donald (Gregory Linington, who brings touching vulnerability to the standard oddball outsider role), a caustic social misfit who misses human contact; and Cheryl (K.T. Vogt), an ex-hairdresser who has become a self-styled shrink.

Slowly, Jenny starts to find the wherewithal to move forward. The play is named “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” but the comic dithering of the loquacious basket case Lou and the other Slab City denizens drives the show. While it’s commendable that Miss Myatt does not provide pat answers and instant healing in the space of 95 minutes, providing evidence of cracks in Jenny’s doggedly aloof demeanor and some further insights into the unique issues facing disabled female soldiers would have been appreciated.

You’re not completely sure of Miss Myatt’s point of view, or if she even has one beyond presenting a picaresque account of the wacky characters a soldier meets after returning home from Iraq.

This makes “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter” very much a work in progress, since it does not take seriously or do justice to the experiences of our fighting men and women.

WHAT: “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” by Julie Marie Myatt

WHERE: Terrace Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Sunday

TICKETS: $25

PHONE: 202/467-4600

WEB SITE: www.kennedy-center.org

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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