FIT 2012: Leave the Pancakes to IHOP

There’s an edgy urgency to producing short stage work in a tiny venue, where economy of time and space drives focused reality. No leisurely drifting through two or three self-indulgent acts, or gratuitous geeky technical grandstanding. Get on. Set the stage. Inhabit the character. Drive the story. Hit the climax. Get off. Result? Refreshing and creative, or flatter than a pancake. With Festival of Independent Theatres 2012, nobody’s competing with IHOP. What a strong collection of performances, most of them ably produced.

My vote for Best In Show, 2012

Barrett Nash as Rachel Corrie

“My Name is Rachel Corrie”, edited by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner from the diaries of American heroine Rachel Corrie. Rite of Passage Theatre Company boldly takes on this tough, biographical one-woman show and achieves dignified, evocative balance between art and political statement. Directed by Clay Wheeler with a light touch opening its serious content freely, joyously to the audience, the play features Barrett Nash as idealistic, committed peace and social justice activist Rachel Corrie from Evergreen College in Washington State. Corrie was murdered at age 23 in March, 2003, by an Israeli soldier who drove a bulldozer over her while she tried to protect a Palestinian family’s home in Occupied Gaza during the Second Intafada. The Israelis have always claimed her death was an “accident”, which eyewitness accounts dispute. It’s not normal Dallas theatre fare (global protest politics gets scant attention off stage much less on), and it makes riveting theatre. With a cinema realite vengeance, Barrett Nash inhabits the intriguing, complex, impassioned Rachel Corrie from the moment lights come up on her as a teenager lounging in her Olympia bedroom. She leads the audience across a poignant revelatory arc of personal development and expanding social conscience without overdrawn stereotype or sanctification. Vulnerable, terrified, determined, Nash tosses you into her knapsack on Corrie’s sad journey across the globe; if you’ve never thought about the Israel-Palestine Conflict from a daily life’s impact perspective, here is your window into that world. “The distance between ecstasy and misery is just a shrug.” Corrie recognizes life’s fragility while never giving up hope; Nash allows Corrie’s diaries to drive her portrayal and shares the activist’s personal discoveries with a fresh, open honesty that pays fitting tribute to the bravery of this genuine American heroine.  I saw it twice, wept copiously both times. Splendid performance, eloquently realized.

Barrett Nash as Rachel Corrie. Hillary Bridgman photo.

“…Theatre has no obligation to give a complete picture. Its only duty is to be honest. And what you get here is a stunning account of one woman’s passionate response to a particular situation. And the passion comes blazing through in Corrie’s eloquent reaction to her father’s inquiry about Palestinian violence. As she says, if we lived where tanks and soldiers and bulldozers could destroy our homes at any moment and where our lives were completely strangled, wouldn’t we defend ourselves as best we could?” (from Michael Billington’s Guardian review of the Alan Rickman directed 2005 Royal Court Theatre production) “My Name is Rachel Corrie” has been performed worldwide, including in Haifa, Israel, in Arabic.

 Runs again at FIT:  July 28, 5pm; August 3, 8pm; August 4, 5pm

The Festival of Independent Theatres continues through August 4 at the Bath House Cultural Center. More reviews to come.

Tickets: http://festivalofindependenttheatres.org

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