On March 16 2003, the 23-year-old American political activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer preparing to demolish a Palestinian home in Rafah, in southern Gaza. Corrie was immediately hailed by the Palestinian notables Yasir Arafat and Edward Said and just as quickly vilified by some in the pro-Israel camp for her passionate naivety.
This spring another war of words erupted, when off- Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop postponed a production of My Name is Rachel Corrie, a one-woman evening based on her life. London’s Royal Court Theatre, where the work premiered in April 2005, and Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, who edited Corrie’s writings to create the piece, accused the Theatre Workshop of censorship; the New York troupe claimed it merely wanted to present the play in a climate more hospitable to volatile work.
The show has now opened in a commercial production off-Broadway. I salute Rickman (who directed) and Viner but the production is theatrically inert. Its pulse-slowing quality has little to do with the staging. Rickman and his actor, Megan Dodds, use the space suitably, and the designer Hildegard Bechtler has evoked with admirable simplicity both Corrie’s messy American bedroom and the Palestinian walls near which her life ends.
No, the problem is with the text itself. Rickman and Viner have efficiently edited the Corrie story: from her early dreams of being a writer to her university years to her arrival, in January 2003, in Gaza to work with the International Solidarity Movement.
But what might make an excellent short book tracing the development of a young woman’s artistic temperament and social conscience does not transfer persuasively to 90 minutes of theatre. Too often I felt talked at rather than talked to, and Dodds’s vocal technique lacks variety. ★★☆☆☆
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