“My Name Is Rachel Corrie” opened off-off-Broadway yesterday at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York. The one woman play, starring the very blond and wholesome looking Megan Dodds, is compiled from writings left behind in the diaries, letters, and e-mails of a 23-year-old American ISM activist killed while standing in front of an Israeli bulldozer. The bulldozer was in the midst of knocking down a house in an area used for smuggling contraband, weapons and explosives into Gaza from Egypt through tunnels.
The controversial play, a hit for London’s Royal Court Theater where it was first performed is now breaking advance ticket sales records at the Minetta. The show’s original scheduled performances last spring at the New York Theatre Workshop were cancelled at the last minute – organizers blamed scheduling issues, critics blamed censorship.
The play has so far gotten mixed reviews. Michael Kuchawara, the AP Theatre critic said that Dobbs “gives a distant, oddly detached performance that seems more like an acting exercise than a portrait of a passionate young woman.” Ben Brantley, the New York Times critic, stated that “for long stretches â€œRachel Corrieâ€ feels dramatically flat, even listless.” Michael Dale of Broadwayworld.com opines “The story of Rachel Corrie may be an important one. Her words may deserve to be heard. But this lackluster and ultimately heavy-handed and one-sided presentation is not the way to do it.”
So the show sucks. But perhaps the real theatre is behind the scenes. Variety has a good article about how the presumed politics behind the production is playing out in
hymietown New York with its large, Jewish, theatre-going population.
“Some people chose not to work with us on this,” [co-Producer Dena Hammerstein] says… As one longtime legit agent explains: “You can’t be perceived as saying anything remotely anti-Israel in New York. People jump all over you.” … Some observers doubt “Rachel Corrie,” or perhaps any play, can do justice to the situation in the Middle East…. “There are very few plays that can capture that complexity,” says Emanuel Azenberg, the veteran legit producer who makes regular trips to Israel…
The producers have gone to pains to state that the play is not meant to be about politics (despite benefiting greatly from the surrounding politically-oriented controversy):
“It’s an emotional stance the show takes, not a political one,” says Hammerstein. “This girl just wanted to make the world a better place.”
But I guess some people nonetheless see attendance at “My Name is Rachel Corrie” as a vote against the right of the state of Israel to exist.
Take Ed Koch, the former New York mayor who has a long history with the city and its Jewish populace.”I assume the people who are of the opinion that the show is anti-Israel propaganda won’t go,” he says. “I happen to be a Zionist. I wouldn’t go to see anti-Israel crap.”
Anti-Israel activists have practically canonized Rachel Corrie, trying to set her up as a modern day Anne Frank. As an observer of the middle-east conflict, Corrie is woefully naive and uninformed. As far as any messages one can take from the play, many critics have noted that for a ten minute stretch, the play shows some promise when Dobbs reads a letter Corrie sent to her Mother. In the letter Corrie finds herself “questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature.” Anne Frank, who died at Bergen Belsen and suffered privations that Corrie and her supporters could hardly imagine, wrote something completely different however:
It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death…and yet…I think…this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.
That there says it all. Rachel Corrie may be many things – but she’s no Ane Frank.