Ugly Lies the Bone

"We are not born to endure. We're born to recover," says The Voice in Lindsey Ferrentino's new play, Ugly Lies the Bone. The Voice (Caitlin O'Connell) is talking to Jess (Mamie Gummer), a young, female veteran who, upon returning home with significant and painful injuries, is undergoing a form of virtual reality therapy.

Scenes of Jess in therapy are interspersed with scenes of her trying to readjust to life after war. She is in Titusville, Florida (a small town due east of Orlando, the heart of Florida's space coast, as the program says), and living with her sister, Kacie (Karron Graves), in their mother's house. (Mom is in a nursing home.) In addition to learning to manage her pain and how to avoid flashbacks, Jess must also navigate how to relate to the people she used to know, like Stevie (a great Chris Stack), a former flame, as well as people new to her, like Kacie's boyfriend, Kelvin (Haynes Thigpen), whom Jess doesn't trust.

Jess finds it difficult to separate soldier Jess from civilian Jess. Promising playwright Ferrentino, director Patricia McGregor and Gummer (The School for Lies) present yet another portrait of a veteran returning from war. (Think: movies like The Hurt Locker.) What's different about Ugly Lies the Bone is that this is one of the few veteran-comes-home stories I've seen that focuses on a female veteran. This is important because while many of the struggles veterans face are gender-neutral, women are often expected to behave in certain ways and hold particular interests, adding pressure to an already tenuous reentry period. Kudos to Ferrentino for shining a spotlight on a different side of a familiar story.