Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. In addition to that statistic, the Department of Justice estimates that there are more than 320,000 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. In 2015, only 32 percent of sexual assault cases were reported, which means the already staggering numbers are actually higher.
Now, what if many of the unreported assaults were committed by individuals who have pledged to protect our country's honor? Through May 21, Geva Theatre Center explores this question with the world premiere of "Other Than Honorable," the second to last Wilson Stage offering of the season.
"Other Than Honorable" follows Army officer-turned-lawyer Grace Rattigan, a woman whose vulnerable emotional state is heightened by her husband Billy's deployment to an unknown location. While he is away, Grace decides to take on a military sexual assault case that hurtles her eight years into the past and forces her to make a series of monumental decisions. With a few supportive friends by her side, Grace begins digging into the military's greatest secret: sexual assault.
Playwright Jamie Pachino has a list of awards and writing credits that include the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays production grant; screenwriting for Amazon and Disney; and a current position as a writer-supervisor for NBC's "Chicago PD."
Her plays have been produced in four countries, and this is her second world premiere at Geva (her play "Splitting Infinity" opened in 2006). Ms. Pachino's work often carries heavy-hitting themes, and "Other Than Honorable" fully embraces that quality.
Director Kimberly Senior (Broadway's "Disgraced") carefully guides a cast of 11 through the play's gritty content. In the leading role of Grace Rattigan, Jessiee Datino holds nothing back in her raw, emotional portrayal of Grace. She is the linchpin for the entire show.
As Captain Billy Rattigan, a character seen only on a projected screen, John Wernke is infinitely likeable as Grace's calming, loving spouse. Elizabeth Rich, who plays a dry-humored Dr. Brenda Kurtz, is at once the supporting comedic role and catalyst for much of Grace's life-altering decisions early in the play, while Jason Kolotouros delivers a chilling portrayal of Brigadier General Gideon Kane.
Rounding out the cast are Aimé Donna Kelly (PFC Lydia Walsh), Barbara E. Robertson (Alvina Croft), Juan Francisco Villa (Major Hector Nuñez): all commendable in their respective roles. Rochester-based actors Rory Cushman, Christian Hurdle, Jill Rittinger, and Ariana Rivera appear briefly as onscreen "witnesses."
Jack Magaw's scenic design is masterful, incorporating a revolving floor and walls with a capacity for video projections. Lighting design by Josh Epstein informs the mood throughout each scene, while projections by Miles Polaski add an impactful, chaotic visual element. Costumes by Nan Zabriskie are so normal yet nuanced that they manage to influence each character's stage presence.
The original music and sound design by Lindsay Jones is especially brilliant. Jones has both film and stage scores under his belt, and his design for "Other Than Honorable" feels a bit cinematic. The unforgiving, blaring rock riffs between scene changes function as a conduit between audience and stage, creating more tension as the show builds.
"Other Than Honorable" is an exhausting, gripping, devastating triumph, exposing issues that desperately seek a champion. After this run, it will undoubtedly be part of many more theatrical seasons across the country.
A show like "Other Than Honorable" has the potential to demonstrate that audiences do, indeed, want more than fun in a theatrical experience. Some want to analyze, to be challenged, to be tasked with the weight of issues usually swept under the rug. Hopefully, many Rochesterians will give "Other Than Honorable" a try.
Saturday's house was eerily silent through much of the show's two and a half hours, but the curtain call was reminiscent of Geva's February show, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," which brought the entire audience to a standing ovation before the cast even took a bow. By producing the world premiere of "Other Than Honorable," Geva proves - once again - that it is so much more than an entertainment venue.