La Jolla Playhouse is getting a jump on its biennial Without Walls Festival (coming up Oct. 9-11) with a presentation of Liz Lerman’s dance-theater piece Healing Wars. In the spirit of the site-specific WoW Festival, Healing Wars allows audiences backstage before the show to encounter the play’s cast in moving (in both senses of the word) tableaux that evoke Lerman’s trenchant messages about the scars that war inflicts on those who fight it and the healing that sometimes never follows.
This solemn multidisciplinary production melds the Civil War and our more recent conflicts in the Middle East with equal fervor and tenderness. Exposition is entwined in balletic choreography conceived by Lerman and Keith Thompson. The cast of eight, portraying figures from both time periods, includes Paul Hurley, a Navy veteran fitted with a prosthetic leg. Healing Wars weaves in and out of parallel wars and aftermaths, perhaps raising too many talking points – pain, medicine, physical scars, emotional scars, PTSD, the horror and senselessness of war, the indiscriminate specter of death. But Healing Wars’ evocative period music, David Israel Reynoso’s scenic and costume design, and the sensitivity of its dance sequences, which speak more eloquently than words, are equally artful and powerful.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.