Chronicle Review: Students show emotions of war in play

Gemma McFarland

“He came back with no arm, and a head as useless as a dumpling,” said one character in the first scene of “Gathering Shells,” in regards to a war veteran. This is the first of many discussions of the intense effects that war has on men.

As a collaboration between the Homefront Theater and the Quinnipiac University Theater for Community program, “Gathering Shells” artistically portrays life at war and its impact on the human psyche. The audience is taken through the journey of the daughter of a war veteran and a man who is a veteran of Vietnam. Scenes depicting real warfare are played out on the stage, along with poems and speeches given by the two main characters, who are watching scenes from the Civil War from a modern standpoint.

Performed at the Long Wharf Theatre, the stage for “Gathering Shells” is simple, set with two wooden trees serving as its focal point and two high platforms on both sides. The lights come up and the Veterans Homefront Band begins to sing and hum melodic songs of war. Directed by Mary Lou Lauricella and Crystal Brian (who also co-wrote), the play illustrates the sadness and inner conflict that come about as a result of war. While the performance was both unique and deep, its length may have been too much for the viewer to handle.

“The play explores the impact of war on the people who fight it and on their loved ones,” Brian said.

Although the play successfully portrays its main theme, the three-hour time span seems to run it into the ground. “I was emotionally drained by the intensity,” said Amy Wilson, a sophomore audience member. “There was just too much sadness for such a long period of time.”

Some noteworthy performances include those of Keely Baisden as the daughter and Drew Scott as the veteran. Additionally, Quinnipiac seniors Casey Manning and Jack O’Brien successfully exemplify two young soldiers, one with tall stature and boy-like charm, and the other with a “tough guy” mentality and a hidden soft side.

“If we hope for anything in terms of audience response, it’s that people who aren’t directly involved in the wars we are currently fighting will understand that we must all bear responsibility for the damage done to those we send to fight on our behalf,” Brian said.

Although it would have been more effective if shorter, “Gathering Shells” measures up to par in terms of strong emotion and unique display.