Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: OCTOBER 16, 2009
War is hell, whether it’s in the Middle East , or your own living room. On the large scale or small, the causalities are enormous. Two marriages are deconstructed and destroyed in Edward Albee’s devastating 1962 classic, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?, ” which was withdrawn from Pulitzer Prize consideration because of its emotional brutality. In “Nine Parts of Desire,” the action is set in Iraq , but the brutality belongs to all of us.
Actor/writer Heather Raffo , an Iraqi-American, went back to the land of her father to meet the unseen victims of our repeated wars. She interviewed nine Iraqi women, and told their stories of horror and despair, in fierce but lyrical language. These deeply moving tales are stories of endurance, told by women of strength who are riddled by guilt over their survival, still fervent in their love of country.
Each, in her own way, is seeking liberation. But that’s often an unattainable goal, in a war-torn, bombed out land of factions and occupation, where women have no power, no voice and few rights. But these courageous, audacious women have carved out a little place for themselves, whether by stealing and re-selling trinkets or giving up their bodies in trade. You do what you have to do to stay alive.
When Raffo , who earned her Master’s degree here at USD, wrote the play in the 1990s, it was before our current debacle in Iraq . Things can only have gotten worse. In the early incarnations of the piece, Raffo portrayed, no inhabited, all these disparate, sometimes desperate women. Now, under the direction of Janet Hayatshahi, Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company is presenting a searing, beautifully calibrated production, with three gifted actors playing three roles each. it’s a radiant, penetrating evening of theater, filled with stories that will horrify you, move you and make you think.
On a much smaller battleground, Edward Albee also shows what people are capable of doing to each other. For the iconically named George and Martha, it’s all a game: Hump the Hostess, Get the Guest. In one booze-fueled night, they destroy each other, and terrorize their young, late-night visitors, just for a lark. But the toll is colossal. So is the task of undertaking this punishingly difficulty play. Under the expert guidance of skilled actor and first-time director Shana Wride , Compass Theatre has knocked it out of the park. Glyn Bedington and Dale Morris are magnificent as the playful but vicious couple. They match each other, barb for barb, drink for drink, quip for quip. It’s a chilling, thrilling ride.
In both these deeply intense, discomfiting plays, it’s all about breaking down the lies we tell ourselves to keep doing what we do, whether it’s surviving a marriage – or waging a war.
“Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? ” runs through October 28 at Compass Theatre, on the edge of Hillcrest.
The Mo’olelo Production of “Nine Parts Of Desire” continues through November 1, at the Tenth Avenue Theatre downtown.
©2009 PAT LAUNER