Amanda Cheyenne Manis and Zack Roundy in UGLY LIES THE BONE at the Henegar Center. Photo by Dana Niemeier.
It’s been exciting and a little bit intimidating directing “Ugly Lies the Bone,” which opens tonight and runs through April 15 at the Henegar Center.
First, because the story is an important one to tell, and it is rarely if ever told. And second, because it was written by Lindsey Ferrentino, who grew up in Merritt Island. Although Ms. Ferrentino now lives in Brooklyn, NY, the desire to do justice to the playwright’s work is a bit more palpable than usual.
Adding to that is the celebrated status of her drama. In 2015 “Ugly Lies the Bone” debuted at the Roundabout Underground and starred Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter). It went on to London where it was produced at The National Theatre. Just this March, Ferrentino’s commissioned work, “Amy and the Orphans,” debuted at the Roundabout Theatre, with the award winning director Scott Ellis at the helm.
You can’t help but notice that Ms. Ferrentino is drawn to the disenfranchised and exalts the humanity in us all. “Ugly Lies the Bone” touches on many themes. The one that resonated most for me was the theme of change, which is always hard and frequently painful.
Set in Titusville in July, 2011, the backdrop is the final flight of the Space Shuttle. Once an exciting place to grow up, Titusville is now dealing with the imminent end of the Space Shuttle program, making jobs scarce. We go from a home filled with photographs of what once was, to a convenience store offering empty calories and empty hope.
The story focuses on Jess, a female soldier and burn survivor severely injured in an IED explosion on her third tour of duty in Afghanistan. Her world has been rocked. She deals with the changes in her own body and changes in people close to her: Kacie, her sister and caregiver who is holding it all together; Stevie, Jess’ conflicted old boyfriend who is happy working at a convenience store; Kelvin, Kacie’s positive minded boyfriend who buoys the spirits of those around him; the mother, whose mind is slowly drifting away; and a disembodied voice leading Jess in her virtual reality therapy.
There is an escape from her mundane world, and it comes in the form of an actual and intriguing virtual reality therapy designed to help burn survivors heal and help veterans cope with PTSD.
I hope this style of production leaves you feeling a little closer to Jess and the people she represents. And, I’m eager for you to see the resonating performances by Amanda Cheyenne Manis as Jess, Rachel Greshes as Kacie; Zack Roundy as Stevie; Joey Ginel as Kelvin; and Lori McCaskill as the Voice/Mother.
A big “thank you” to Ms. Ferrentino for her guidance in the initial work on this production’s concept. Big thank yous also to Maj. Cathleen Snow, 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, the Phoenix Society for burn survivors, and to John McCardle for letting us experiment with his VR set up.
SIDE O’ GRITS: UGLY LIES THE BONE runs through April 15 at the Henegar Center, 625 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $26 general, $23 military and seniors and $16 students. Call 321-723-8698 or visit Henegar.org.