Surviving a battle requires strength, dedication, patience and courage. Battles are rarely fought alone, and in The Hero’s Wife, these traits describe a young soldier and his wife fighting wars at home and abroad. Onstage at Synchronicity Theatre through May 5, the world-premiere play explores the complicated and painful effects of PTSD post-deployment in 2019.
Audience members should come prepared to take a deeply personal look inside the walls of a home left corrupted by war and fear. Playwright Aline Lathrop shows the resilience and heartbreak of two young adults attempting to be their bravest selves for each other.
Branded as “smart, gutsy, and bold,” Synchronicity’s mission statement aligns with Lathrop’s vision for the play. The quality of life and mental health of discharged soldiers is an issue that Lathrop herself was unfamiliar with prior to writing the play. But, as she noticed its effects on the homes and social lives of young veterans, she decided to dig in more.
In The Hero’s Wife, recently discharged Cameron (Joe Sykes) is keeping a secret from his wife, Karyssa (Rebeca Robles), about his VA benefits. He has been “less-than-honorably” discharged from service but leads his wife to believe that he retired. This secret becomes bigger throughout the play because not having the support of the VA during times of trauma intensifies the need for honesty and openness that the couple struggles to find.
Lathrop is also gutsy in the way she writes the physical violence onstage. Cameron suffers from night terrors, and Karyssa feels the effects, unbeknownst to her sleeping husband. The physicality of the horrors she endures radiates through the space. Robles and Sykes perfect the intensity of these moments. Though it’s hard to watch, it’s important to see.
Robles mixes eagerness and reservation in her physicality, conveying Karyssa’s unwillingness to quit on the situation. The closeness she desires is continuously thwarted, so she uses distance to enforce changed behavior. Sykes’ powerful physical presence is softened by Cameron’s desire to leave behind the roughness from his military career. The intimacy of the space and the romantic atmosphere of the set complement the actors’ chemistry. This play leaves no room for awkward or disingenuous connections; Robles and Sykes deliver authenticity.
The script is bold in its extrapolation of what goes on behind closed doors of a veteran’s home. Not to say that this story is representative of all veteran experiences, but it is reflective of many veterans’ and veteran wives’ experiences, validating the silent battle that rages inside their homes.
As the play progresses, the thought of harm coming to either of these characters becomes a major concern. The actors deliver the intensity and authenticity needed to remind the audience that there are heroes among us.