Threads is a neat little package of a one-woman show by Tonya Jone Miller, in which she transports her audience from Indiana living rooms to Vietnamese warzones using only a pair of suit cases, some well-timed technical cues, and her riveting story.
The show traces the story of Miller’s mother Donna, a young American woman who, through a series of chance human encounters, finds herself traveling to Vietnam as an English teacher in the midst of the American War. The dramatically non-linear narrative pulls threads from the character’s emotional heart, bringing to life exactly as much of each encounter as needed to capture the essence of a relationship. All this comes full circle at the play’s conclusion, where the order of the threads finally becomes clear. Structurally, this show is very interesting, and is sure to keep you guessing to the end.
The story certainly doesn’t pull any emotional punches either; being set in close proximity to a warzone makes this easy to do, but there are interesting personal touches that make this story different from many narratives formed around war. The technical transitions and sound cues really enhance this telling. With the aid of lights and sound, Donna teaches straight through air raids, and soldiers wade through rivers of Agent Orange.
If there are any weak points in this production, they’re to be found in one or two moments rang less true than the rest. The unique touches that bring life to most of the story are absent to some extent from the hospital scene, and at times the pacing drags, drawing my attention from the enacted telling back to the teller. This comes in a couple of moments that feel over-rehearsed, as though Miller wasn’t quite focused on embodying that moment for her character. I also thought the staging could use a bit more imagination at some points: the suitcases, for example, are used in only a couple of ways, and are left out from the telling for a large part of the show. Their choice as props is simple and effective, and they are occasionally used very well, but considering their prominence on stage, I wanted more from them.
In general, Miller’s performance is a strong one, and the show as a whole works very well. Go check out Threads; its definitely one of the more complete and polished offerings at the festival.
Venue 3 Academic Hall
Created and Performed by Tonya Jone Miller
By Wes Babcock