The Playgoer: Be Careful What You Wish For--II

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For--II

Now the Boston Globe concurs with the Herald that pairing My Name is Rachel Corrie with another play (or at least the one chosen) doesn't soften its impact, but rather only drowns out the "other side."

i'll quote critic Louise Kennedy at length since she makes the point quite eloquently, I think:

In some ways, the pairing makes sense: The works feel similar in scale and style, and they fit neatly onto a shared set (cleanly designed by David R. Gammons, who also directs "Rachel Corrie") with only slight alterations. They're also politically "balanced" enough, apparently, to have muted the kind of outrage that has accompanied "Rachel Corrie" stagings elsewhere.

Nevertheless, it's a pity that New Rep found it necessary to create this kind of balance. It's a pity because, although the theater has emphasized that it's not trying to reduce a complex situation to just two perspectives, it's hard not to read a double bill that way: "Here's one side and here's the other." Even with the admirable slate of staged readings, panel discussions, and films that the company is presenting in support of these works, putting the two plays together forces us to view them through a reductively binary lens.

It's also unfortunate because no two plays in the world can exactly balance each other. They're individual works of art, not position papers, and they must each be judged on their own merits - not just on how they connect to the real political issues they engage, but also on how they succeed as works of art. Here, "Pieces" and "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" are simply not balanced at all.

Neither is a perfect play, but "Rachel Corrie" is more expertly crafted, more movingly written, and, at least in these productions, more essentially theatrical than "Pieces." Let me emphasize that that's an aesthetic judgment, not a political one. But let me also say that it can be hard to disentangle the two, and that's why I'd rather see each play presented on its own.

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