“Dyke, bitch, or ho”: They’re all you can be (if you’re a woman in the Army). At least, that’s how a character in The Lonely Soldier Monologues explains one of the many catch-22’s confronting her and others of her sex as they help fight America’s twin wars in a climate of outright misogyny. Author Helen Benedict’s first stage piece, adapted from her muckraking book, follows the tales of seven such women, from naive enlistment to troubled return. Rape, cover-ups, and harassment in the field play out with suitable pathos, but somehow what lingers are the less sensational, more unanticipated ordeals—like a character not being helped by a PTSD therapy designed for men’s symptoms (“I don’t go out and drive 500 miles—or punch things,” she complains).
William Electric Black, who conceived and directed the project, made the risky decision to shun minimalism: The athletic, prop-heavy, whiz-bang staging could have suggested a lack of confidence in the material’s power. But the gamble largely pays off, and with the help of lush, propulsive sound design by percussionist Jim Mussen and a few cheesy toy M-16’s, TNC’s Cino space becomes a veritable theater of combat.