Say there fella! Don’t you know there’s a war on? The Krauts are goose stepping all over Europe and here you are wasting your time cutting a rug with some dame instead of reporting for duty! Well when she’s got gams like those who can blame ya?
World War II is in many ways the dominant, self flattering legend of modern America. Our forbears banded together heroically to defeat the ultimate evil. But that doesn’t mean we were the ultimate good. Mark Mason’s play “Allotment Annie” is both a loving rendition of the era and a healthy dose of demythologization.
The title refers to a cynical nickname for women who impulsively married soldiers headed into particularly dangerous combat. The government offered kingly sums of ten thousand dollars (“allotments”) to combat widows. In the pre-computerized age, the bureaucracy didn’t watch this sort of thing as closely so there were a lot of opportunities for corruption.
The play takes place in Poughkeepsie, New York, 1944, where two soldiers are getting ready to ship out for D-Day, small town Joe (Carl Lindberg) and cynical rogue Vance (Beau Forbes) walk into a tavern bartended by Francine (Kate Black-Spence) and owned by her best friend Virginia. (Amy Rapp)
Joe and Fran begin a romance and quickly reveal they’re both wholesome than they appear. Joe has a fraudulent war profiteering scheme, which he enlists Fran’s savvy and connections for, and she’s eager to help. Unlike our legends of the era, these two aren’t heroes. They’re people who grew up in one scarring trauma, the Depression, and our facing another as young adults.
We gradually learn that Fran is quite a damaged individual, fascinatingly so. In last year’s “The Fisherman”, Black-Spence gave a compelling performance as a decent woman driven by a simple conscience. Here, she’s equally fascinating as an unhappy woman tormented by a perverse one.
Mason’s play is seductive, its lighthearted dialogue quickly giving way to dark psychological intrigue. It is a worthy, revisionist addition to our dominant legend.