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‘Jenny Sutter’ explores returning vet’s plight

Lily Majekwu stars Next Theatre’s 'Welcome Home Jenny Sutter.'

Lily Majekwu stars in Next Theatre’s "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter."

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‘Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter’

♦ Through Dec. 23

♦ Next Theatre Company, Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., Evanston

♦ Tickets, $25-$40

♦ (847) 475-1875, ext. 2;

Updated: November 14, 2012 5:00PM

You’d think that anyone who risked her life for her country would be considered a hero.

But that’s not what happens if to those who fought in an unpopular war such as Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.

A U.S. Marine has to deal with that reality, as well as her own demons, in “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter” at Next Theatre.

In the work, Jenny Sutter (Lily Majekwu), a veteran who returns from the Middle East war with a prosthetic leg, winds up in a desert community after her military service, unwilling — or unable — to return to her children.

Jessica Thebus, who directed the world premiere of Julie Marie Myatt’s play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2008 and its remount at the Kennedy Center, directs the Next staging. “She’s trying to go home to her children,” Thebus insisted. “She just can’t get on the bus, so she’s stuck at a bus station watching buses go by and can’t take any action. She’s unable to go from the military life back to the world with her injury. The whole play is her struggle.”

“She’s not ready to trust who she is as a mother right now,” Los Angeles-based playwright Myatt added. “She’s embarrassed by her body and not sure how her kids will react. And in a state of trauma herself.”

Myatt, whose father was in the Marine Corps, began writing the play in 2005. “I felt like we were at war in Iraq and no one I knew was really talking about it,” she said. “I felt that was strange.” Myatt said she wanted to address the questions, “How do we talk about a war when you don’t believe in it?” And, in terms of those sent to fight it, “How do you welcome them home from a war you don’t agree with?”

The title character is not based on an actual person, but her gender is important because, Myatt said, “This is the first war where we had women in combat,” Myatt said.

That raised a third issue for the playwright: “How do we, as a nation, deal with women coming back wounded and maimed by war compared to men?”

Thebus thinks audiences will relate to Jenny’s experience “of being stuck, knowing what you should do, knowing what you want to do and, because of your struggle — your demons, your trauma — you’re unable to move forward until there’s a certain amount of healing.”

Beyond that, Myatt said, war veterans need our support.

“They need to know that we care that they were there, even if we don’t believe in the reasons that they were there.”

Myrna Petlicki is a local free-lance writer.

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