A review of Los Feliz Theatre Company’s “Junk Girls” at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The play is written by Mark Mason, directed by Alexandra Leigh, and produced by Brie Carter.
“Junk Girls” is a timely play. We are pulling out of Afghanistan, all of us are watching the news reports of the final days of the US armed support and the Taliban beginning to take hold as a result. But, the US forces’ presence in far flung corners of the world and the massive loss of troops over the decades is much more than a conundrum, it’s a complicated tragedy.
“Junk Girls” is a term given to the female officers sent to families of fallen soldiers, to break the news and offer support. This play is about a group of three. One a CNO (casualty notification officer), an army photographer and a newly assigned journalist looking for a story on this most difficult of duties.
That’s quite a premise and, as you can imagine, it leaves for a good deal of drama and pathos. However, “Junk Girls” is centered around relationships. It features three serving members of the army, sat at the back of the stage, called upon from time to time to put us in the heads of those who serve. It’s set during the last years of the Iraq war, when death was always a possibility and service men and women were under severe stress, at war and at home.
Those who wait have nothing to do but wait, regardless how busy they make their lives. The moments spent on the phone or on video calls are precious and few. I can’t imagine how difficult their lives would be. The struggles to stay sane wondering when and if your loved one would return. But, for the service members, it’s the pain of knowing what they are putting everyone through as well as avoiding death, doing their job and grieving their own friends as they fight beside them. Harrowing is too small a word.
So, that’s the play. Cleverly curled around these people’s lives, their connections to each other, their stories, their shame, their coping strategies. It’s brutally honest, vivid and personal. There’s no posing or political posturing. It’s all about us. How we live, love and die.
The Los Feliz Theatre Company does a remarkable job with “Junk Girls.” It’s tricky stuff, full of places to stumble and over commit, and yet they don’t.
Each actor, so different from the next, brings a deep sense of place and humanity to their roles.
The breakdowns, the humour, the camaraderie, the reality of this kind of life, one that, for many of us, remains a mystery, is beautifully performed. I felt close to them and moved by them, and grateful for the journey with them.
The Hollywood Fringe Festival is a special place. We missed it last year. Yet, even though we are still tiptoeing around live performance, be reassured. I felt safe, they checked my vaccine card and my ID, and we all wore masks.
“Junk Girls” plays on for the next few weeks at the lovely Zephyr Theatre on Melrose. Support the Hollywood Fringe Festival and these wonderful performers and crew.
Mark Mason – Writer
Brie Carter – Producer
Alexandra Leigh – Director
Stephanie Mayer – Stag Manager
Marlana Dunn – Assistant Director/choreographer
Morgan Smith – Intimacy Director
Live and live streamed
August 14, 18, 26 & 28.
7456 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046