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Photo by David Papas

By ROBERT DIGITALE

The young wife laments that since her husband went off to war, she has lost the memory of his features “one piece at a time.”

We see her life and the lives of four other women upended by the outbreak of World War II in “Waiting for the Parade, ” the latest production from Sonoma State University’s theatre arts department.

The piece provides an intimate glimpse as these women try to regain their balance. For them, the journey won’t come easy.

The play, which opened Thursday in SSU’s Studio 76 black box theatre, takes place in Calgary, Alberta. The setting gives American audiences a chance to consider how that staggering global conflict affected our northern neighbors.

Among these Canadians, Catherine (played by Katee Drysdale) is the young wife whose husband enlisted early without bothering to ask her whether she could manage alone while raising their young daughter.

Janet (Anna Leach) is the hard taskmaster at every community war effort. She hopes her super patriotism will quiet any gossip about her husband opting not to enlist.

Widow Margaret (Kat Ray) is a fatalist, assured the worst will happen to her two sons, one in the military and one in trouble for passing out anti-war pamphlets.

Eve (Emily Rice), a schoolteacher, becomes increasingly agitated by her older husband’s militaristic leanings. And Marta (Valerie Ruiz) becomes an outcast after her German immigrant father is taken away and interned as a spy.

The play, by John Murrell, is considered a Canadian classic. The Calgary Sun wrote in September that a production of “Waiting for the Parade” is believed to have occurred somewhere in the world every month since its premiere in 1977.

The play springs forth in a string of episodes, evoking what director Danielle Cain describes as a “photo collage-like quality.” We see a series of images rather than follow a main story line moving toward climax and resolution.

The biggest drama concerns Catherine. We wonder whether her husband will survive the war and how she will handle the advances of men at the plant where she has taken a job in a canteen.

The strength of the production lies in the five strong portrayals of the women. The actors command attention, and sparks fly between characters when they antagonize one another.

Also, all five sing beautifully.

Through them we see how war changes not only those who go off to battle but also those who remain at home.

The play continues through Oct. 23 at Studio 76 in Ives Hall. For information and tickets, click here.