Playwright Bethany Lake has packed a lot into an hour. A Healthy War is chock-a-block full of romance, politics, religion, history and violence.
A Healthy War tells the story of a young Irishman named Diarmuid (Sean Skerry) who comes to Halifax in 1916 carrying a shameful secret. He finds work on the docks with a fellow countryman (Howard Beye) and falls for Maggie (Colleen MacIsaac), a Scottish lass who is bond-servant to the cruel and covetous Mr. Herschell (Dan Bray). Each character has been damaged, and when their stories cross, the outcome is bloody and terrible.
There are some truly memorable scenes in the play—A flashback to Ireland in which Diarmuid’s brother (Aaron Andreino) reveals his own secret moved me to tears. A scene between Diarmuid and his first crush (Vikki Humphrey) nailed the inexorable tug of youthful passion. The flirtation of Diarmuid and Maggie across the clothesline plays with perfect sweetness. Herschell’s rage and attack against Maggie had the audience flinching and turning away. The violent demise of several characters is truly frightening, particularly in the close confines of The Living Room.
Filled with powerful performances and fuelled by an engrossing story, A Healthy War makes for riveting theatre.