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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

My Name Is Rachel Corrie
Proves a Letdown at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Also see David's review of Twelve Angry Men

Rachel Corrie
Marya Sea Kaminski
In terms of all the hue and cry over its politics, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, now in its Seattle premiere engagement at the Seattle Rep, is certainly one of the most controversial plays of recent years. But the play itself, based on Corrie's own journal entries, emails and letters, is a slow-moving, largely uninvolving bore. Neither Director Braden Abraham or the talented Marya Sea Kaminski seem to be at fault. Place the blame instead on playwright (better known as actor) Alan Rickman and his collaborator Katharine Viner for misguidedly thinking they had cobbled together a coherent script from Corrie's writings.

Puget Sound audiences may want to support this show based on all the press this play has received, in part because the title character was a real life, 23-year-old Olympia, WA girl whose convictions and world view turned her into a Pro-Palestinian activist, and took her to the Gaza strip to defend them.. There in March 2003 she perished in a standoff with an Israeli bulldozer which was plowing down Palestinian homes. Whether Corrie was a hero and a martyr will surely be pondered for years to come. What she wasn't doing was writing her thoughts and feelings down in the hopes someone would mold them into a dramatic script. And the Rickman/Viner dramatization, possibly sticking too closely to what Corrie actually said, never justifies its existence. It seems to exist just to be controversial, but it consistently failed to engage or retain my attention. It did, however, make for a very long ninety-minute mixture of lighter, more humorous moments which never made me break into more than a smile, contrasted with heavier, more emotional passages, which similarly left me curiously unmoved.

Kaminski, though seeming a shade too mature to be totally believable as a still idealistic 23-year-old, gives a committed and focused performance, but because the script is all from Rachel's point of view it can't possibly be a multi-dimensional characterization. The actress and the script fare best in a brief section in which Corrie relates experiences her past job adventure working with behavioral health patients. In the five minutes or so that this section played out, I felt like I finally glimpsed a little into the young soul of Rachel Corrie.

When Albert Goodrich and Frances Hackett fashioned The Diary of Anne Frank out of Anne's journals, they let us in on Anne's own imperfections and failings as observed by her attic hideaway family, as well as through her own self-criticism. I didn't come away from My Name Is Rachel Corrie feeling any more positive or negative about her than when I went in. I am sorry the Corrie family lost a daughter, but I don't feel like I got to know what made her tick from watching this play.

Jennifer Zeyl's set design morphs effectively from Corrie's own messy Olympia apartment to the bleak interiors suggestive of the various places in which she nomadically lived on the Gaza strip. L.B. Morse's lighting design is well conceived, Harmony J.K. Arnold's costumes strike the proper note, and sound designer Obadiah Eaves achieves some fine, realistic effects.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie runs through April 22, 2007 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, at the corner of Second Ave. and Mercer St., in Seattle Center. For more information go online to www.seattlerep.org.


Photo: © Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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