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Reply #16: It was very much a tempest in a teapot: [View All]

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NYCGirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-28-07 01:20 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. It was very much a tempest in a teapot: /

Ive never considered Jim Nicolaartistic director of NYTW, producer of Caryl Churchill and Tony Kushner playsfainthearted or unwise. Still, it seems extremely nave to read a script that calls the situation in Gaza truly evil and not expect supporters of Israel to object. When Nicola belatedly discovered those sensitivities among his constituents this past spring, he postponed the show to better contextualize it with talk-backs and things, then compounded his trouble through inexplicably clumsy handling of the announcement. No sooner did a brief news item turn up in the Times than the full, happy cataclysm of denunciations began. Bloggers leaped into the fray, boldface names followed, most dumping scorn on Nicola. We believe that this is an important play, declared Harold Pinter and twenty other writers in a letter to the Times.

The whole debate seemed slightly tinny at the time, as if there wasnt quite as much at stake as all those partisans seemed intent upon discovering. Seeing the play confirms the impression: Corries death was important, and the subject is excruciatingly important, but the play is not important. Its a well-meaning wisp. As Corrie describes her girlhood in Washington State, she shows a sharp eye and a flair for language. (He pronounces his words like rubber bands stretched and snapping, she says of a boy she likes.) Once in Gaza, shes astute to worry about a generation of children who will grow up knowing only this violence, and she flashes a blistering eloquence in a climactic speech (forcefully delivered by Megan Dodds) in which she vents her disbelief and horror at the carnage.

But the play develops no cumulative power. For all the gravity of the material, her observations feel curiously weightless, offering no sense of why these bad things are happening all around her. In fact, the play is so thin that anybody who might have told Nicola not to proceed because of its politics seems misguided. For the love of John Stuart Mill, are these journal entries really damning enough to merit suppression? The e-mails of a young outsider who says Im really new to talking about Israel-Palestine dont seem terribly hard to refute, if youre so inclined.

Corries diaries are more valuable in describing a budding idealists growth than in bearing witness to the worlds knottiest conflict. Even here, though, unlovely notes intrude. More than once, Corrie takes an oddly detached view of Palestinian violence, doubting that it could have any impact on the Israelisa surprisingly clinical tone for such a sensitive advocate of social justice, as if its the body count incurred in a bus bombing that matters. I didnt pick the example at random. While Corrie was in Gaza, a suicide bomber destroyed a bus in Haifa, killing fifteen peoplemainly childrenincluding an American girl even younger than Corrie, one involved in a program to reconcile Arab and Jewish students. Theres something poignant in the ways these two sad stories parallel each other and diverge. I can even imagine a drama using their deaths to tell us something new about the conflict, or help us better understand its whole horrible complexity. This play doesnt.
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