Political relevance is not enough to overcome the myriad problems that undermine Dee Jae Cox’s latest endeavor, “Letters Home,” the story of a military witch-hunt against lesbians.
Cox draws on her own experiences in the armed services to lay the play’s foundation, but she fails to instill the tension and dramatic conflict of her real-life ordeal within the script.
Instead, we get dull, clunky dialogue framed by a contrived scenario, all of which is further sterilized by Marian Jones’ static direction.
The story is set on a U.S. military base in Germany, where an investigation into alleged lesbian practices is launched after a colonel’s 18-year-old daughter confesses to an affair with the older Lynn Baker (Laura Rogers). Lynn had once been the lover of Devin Davis (Emily Deschanel), who eventually becomes the primary target in the investigation. Though threatened with prison or dishonorable discharge, Devin refuses to cooperate until at last she stands trial.
There is a general self-consciousness about most of the actors, which is heightened by a deplorable lack of military sensibility. The worst offenders are Michael Thorstensen as the absurdly vile Sgt. Pendergrass; Phil Pavlosky as an obnoxiously chauvinistic witness; Michael Massengale as Devin’s defense attorney (who could use a strong dose of pugnacity); and Lucki Wheating as the insipid prosecuting attorney, with whom Devin had a one night stand.
As Devin, Deschanel relies on external signals — heavy sighs and worried looks, mostly — to convey whatever emotion the script indicates. But as Devin’s best friend, Jena, Stephanie Boles adds a human touch. And in a brief scene, Matt-Boatright Simon, as the supportive Sgt. Asher, overwhelms the stage with a relaxed confidence and, yes, military bearing, that hopefully will inspire the rest of the cast.