Saturday, March 31, 2007

Play: Omelas

My Name is Rachel Corrie taken from the writings of Rachel Corrie, edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, Directed by Braden Abraham, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 15 March-27 April, extended to 6 May.

Controversy is not a regular attendee at the REP. Yeah, theater in general has dealt with controversial topics - indeed, it is a good place for controversy to spread out and gain acceptance. But usually a movement or subject would be creatively exhausted or safely ensconced among the marketplace before reaching mainstream stages. Putting together an August Wilson play was once gutsy. Now it is a yearly tradition (and yes, I consider such a thing to be a sign of progress).

This play is controversy. Rachel Corrie was a young woman who was protesting Israeli military actions against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. She was run over by a bulldozer while seeking to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. The fact that she was young and American and from the Seattle area, raised the news of her death above the messy background static that gets increasingly tuned out in our minds.

The play comes from Corrie's emails and journals, and wanders all over the place, and editors Rickman and Viner keep that wandering intact, producing a picture of the young woman that is as more well-rounded and, well, real. It is as messy as her room (which translates in a cunning bit of stagecraft from Olympia to Gaza in a smooth series of motions). She deals with boyfriends, smoking, messes, injustice, her own foul language and a need to make the world a better place, a journey that leads her into the path of the bulldozer.

Marya Sea Kaminski is Rachel (it is a one-woman show, save for off-stage vocals at the end and a film of the young real (?) Corrie). She does a fantastic job carrying us through the tangle of on-sided conversations, including a brilliant bit of Rachel sunnily screwing up while working with mental patients. This Rachel is not pared down and buffed to gleaming sainthood, and that makes the story all that much more engaging.

This is a stunning play, in the literal sense of the word. At the end, with the loss of this bright, intelligent, passionate woman, the audience was stupefied, the applause only growing after they shook off what they have been a part of. Even afterwards, I have never seen an audience file out so quietly. Some women were visibly weeping. I think everyone was pulled into unsafe territory, and given food for thought. Yeah, me included.

This is a controversial play. It is a dangerous play. It is worth seeing.

More later,