Review by Polly Wittenberg
It was a hit in London, but I wondered how a show about a young Christian college student killed in Palestinian territory by a bulldozer of the Israeli Defense Force would play with the typical New York audience. The answer is that, at the performance I saw, the show received some generous applauseï¿½though not quite the enthusiastic welcome I think it deserved.
Compiled by British actor Alan Rickman and Kathryn Viner, an editor at The Guardian (UK), from the diaries, letters and e-mails of a young woman from Olympia, Washington, My Name is Rachel Corrie just opened at the Minetta Lane Theater. It presents the words of this idealistic American from her very formative years, through her political awakenings during a trip to Russia as a teenager and as a student at a local college, to her disillusionment and demise while serving as an international witness and ï¿½shieldï¿½ for Palestinian homes in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
As directed with precision and simplicity by Rickman on a clever set by Hildegard Bechtler and as acted by the luminous American actor Megan Dodds, we follow Rachel from her red-walled postcard-pasted typical teenage room in the idyllic Northwest of this country to a bullet-pocked concrete manse being ravaged by a strong and skillful enemy in a Mideast of seemingly endless war.
One doesnï¿½t have to accept all of Rachelï¿½s conclusions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to appreciate the deep feeling and clarity with which she articulated them. And, despite our daily contact with the news from Iraq on television, it doesnï¿½t take too much imagination to accept Rachelï¿½s general view that those of us sitting on the other side of the world living our normal lives are way out of touch with the devastating effects that war can have on the local civilian populations.
It surely canï¿½t hurt to spend 90 minutes at this beautifully-produced show, being reminded of the daily travails of others and also of the purity of purpose that inspires some young American activists.
What the critics had to say.....
BEN BRANTLEY of the NEW YORK TIMES says ï¿½Though Ms. Corrie had a streak of preciousness, thereï¿½s nearly always a redeeming grit in her writing and a feeling of energy that could burn. These textures are mostly absent from Ms. Doddsï¿½s performance." & "No matter what side you come down on politically, Ms. Corrieï¿½s sense of a world gone so awry that it forces her to question her ï¿½fundamental belief in the goodness of human natureï¿½ is sure to strike sadly familiar chords"
JOE DZIEMIANOWICZ of the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says "It is a stirring account of the enduring Middle Eastern conflict and a telling portrait of a young student from Olympia, Wash., who wanted to make a difference in the world. Megan Dodds reprises the award-nominated role she originated last year at London's Royal Court Theatre. It's a gripping performance that pulls you deep into Corrie's experience for much of the evening. "
CLIVE BARNES of THE NEW YORK POST says "While one may argue the politics inherent in this story of its central figure, who was either passionately idealistic or misguided and naive, the sad fact it that this dramatization of her letters, e-mails and diaries is not a particularly illuminating theatrical experience."
LINDA WINER of NEWSDAY says "Rachel's story is important, but her words alone are not interesting enough to hold the stage."
MICHAEL KUCHWARA of ASSOCIATED PRESS says "Theatrically and politically earnest, an uneven scrapbook drama about an idealistic, some might say naive, young woman trying to do good against the backdrop of the swirling, seemingly insolvable Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
FRANK SCHECK of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says "Ultimately, the play is more an anti-war document than an anti-Israeli diatribe, and, as directed smartly by Rickman and interpreted by the luminous Dodds, more of a character study than anything."
DAVID ROONEY of VARIETY says "Developed by Alan Rickman (who also directed) and Guardian features editor Katharine Viner from Corrie's college writings, diary entries and emails, the play avoids becoming propaganda. But in attempting to distill drama from the tragedy of Corrie's senseless death at 23, the work is handicapped by a voice that even at its most impassioned, was not fully formed. By her own admission, Corrie was "scattered," and it's that quality that intrudes on the piece's searing emotionality."
External links to full reviews from newspapers