Centering the opening action of the play on the Civil War, the author fills the stage with a swirl of people and events to capture the awful trauma of this cataclysmic happening. We meet the young Lydie Breeze, a Nantucket lass serving as a nurse (who pins the wounded soldiers' valuables to her petticoat to protect them from theft); the brusque Dan Grady, a rough but charming Union Army sergeant who tries to shield Lydie from danger as the tide of battle shifts back and forth; and, in brief cameos, such luminaries as Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee who, in setting forth their individual stories, cast a chilling light on the root causes of the national crisis. After the thunderous scenes of battle and disorder, the action of the play shifts to Nantucket, where Lydie, now returned home, awaits the arrival of her father, captain of the whaling vessel, Gardenia. But his return brings unhappy news: The Gardenia has burned at sea with the loss of its black crew—and there are suspicions of foul play, racial conflict and possible fraud. Against this troubled background, exacerbated by a brutal showdown between Captain Breeze and his embittered son, and the Captain's subsequent suicide, Lydie determines to found an idyllic community of kindred spirits in the family homestead and to fight back against the corruption and materialism which have overtaken the times—an utopian scheme which, as the later plays make so eloquently clear, eventually founders on the unworkability of its own good intentions.
A companion Play to Lydie Breeze. Taken together, the plays constitute a vivid and panoramic study of crucial events in American history from the time of the Civil War onward, but WOMEN AND WATER, in itself, is a self-contained epic which, in following the fate of one family, makes a powerful statement about the disillusionment and disaffection that became the legacy of national discord. "…tumultuous in its outpouring of characters and incident." —NY Times. "…examines the forces which shape the American character." —The Hollywood Reporter.