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9 Parts of Desire

a Atlanta Premiere
CATEGORY :
by Heather Raffo

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 2273

SHOWING : April 13, 2007 - May 13, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

An exquisite tapestry is woven in this series of monologues by a diverse group of Iraqi women. Originally conceived as a one-woman show, the playwright has given Horizon the green light to have three actresses interweave 9 characters into a textured landscape of survival, family, and love. Carolyn Cook, Suehyla El-Attar, and Marianne Fraulo color in the "Other" as someone recognizable and admirable.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Yet Another Pass for Sub-Par Work
by John Q. Theatregoer
Friday, May 11, 2007
2.0
Thank God Ms. El-Attar was in this production.

Look, I am not a reviewer, and will make no attempt to put these comments into a proper "review" format. But I have some very important things to say.

The fact that it was too hot in the theatre for Mr. Rudy is an issue. And if it caused him to be drowsy I think the management of Horizon Theatre OUGHT to read about it somewhere. But I suspect that even though Mr. Rudy is unwilling to admit it or even recognize it, Ms. Cook and Ms. Fraulo were at least patially responsible for his dozing.

I just didn't believe a word of it. Not one word. Is was so "put on", so forced forward that I never got into the story. I couldn't.

Look I don't know that much about theatre, and I don't go to see a lot of plays in this town, but I read the AJC review of this play and I read the reviews here, and I thought here was this great play I needed to go see.

Well, If this is what is celebrated by the arts community, then it makes me feel like I need to look elsewhere to spend my time and money on cultural enrichment. And I say that with sadness because I like to go see good actors on stage.

You don't get a pass JUST because its all women and its politically correct to celebrate that. And you don't get a pass JUST because the issues are current and poignant and its socially correct to be concerned. If I am going to the theatre, it has to be a good PLAY. And this just wasn't.

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Let me turn my other cheek by Dedalus
I just want to respond by saying, if you think I gave the play "a pass" to be "politically correct," you'd be quite wrong. And to accuse a writer who praises ANY play of "giving it a pass" is pretty much a slap in the face of anyone who tries to articulate why a piece moves and thrills them. One of the first axioms of theater-going is that two people can sit in the same audience and see two completely different performance. To say a play is GOOD or BAD based on your own response is to put yourself on a pedastal I don't think any of us deserve.

For the record, I do have a touch of narcolepsy, and if I don't wash down a couple of caffeine pills with a Coke before any play, I'll get drowsy -- I don't care if its's the loudest kick-ass musical, the most hysterical comedy, or the most wordy and talky existential blather -- it's just the way I'm made (especially if the temperature gets above 75). In spite of not having any caffeine when I saw this play, I was profoundly moved by it and very impressed by all three actresses.

The monologue format can admittedly be an acquired taste, and this play was, in fact, written as a monologue for one actress. There's nothing wrong with admitting you don't like it for that reason. There's also nothing wrong with "not believing a word I see", even if everyone in the world disagrees.

"What is celebrated by the arts community" is a vast a diverse array of stuff, and there are very few pieces that everyone agrees on. What makes it vital (and why I think this site has so much potential) is that it can start discussions and drive us all to form our own sense of theatre. You'll find with my ditherings here, most of my reviews come down to a simple emotional response, and my postings are driven by that.

But to attack those who disagree with you (such as accusing them of giving a play a "pass") stops the debate cold.

Feel free to criticize things everyone else loves (or to praise things everyone else hates). Just try not to judge those who disagree.

Thanks for posting!

Brad
Brad Rudy, I love you by John Q. Theatregoer
Didn't mean to offend or attack you. Only the production. Although, now that you bring up the prospect of disagreeing with you without attacking your judgement . . . how is that even possible? If I disagree with your review of a play, doesn't that imply that I find fault with your judgement? I'm happy to revel in our differences and disagree like adults, but let's call it what it is. Any disagreement is, by its nature, an attack on the other's judgement. That said, I respect your writing a great deal, and have enjoyed reading the other reviews you've written. So, please . . forgive. I meant to comment on the play. And the temperature. Not you.
Desire & Devastation
by EKFricke
Thursday, May 10, 2007
0.0
“9 Parts of Desire” at the Horizon Theater has almost finished its run and what a wild ride it was. When my friend, Barbara, invited the girls out to see it she didn’t have to ask me twice, theater-junky that I am. I hadn’t heard much about this show – but I had passed some perfectly pleasant evenings at Horizon and I’m always game for theater so I eschewed “America’s Next Top Model” and made my way to L5P.

Would it be horribly wrong of me to compare “9 Parts of Desire” to “America’s Next Top Model (ANTM)”? To me, it’s actually an interesting – almost thesis-worthy comparison of cultural values and dichotomies. There is no doubt that “Desire” is a political play and with a definite agenda. There is likewise no doubt that a night in the theater seeing this show is a night better spent than one with Tyra & co. But, as embarrassing as it is – I do have to admit that I enjoy ANTM very much. I love all the make-overs, cat-fights, and the constant reinforcement that for these women pretty is more valued than integrity. It makes my little non-model heart warm with feelings of moral superiority.

In contrast ‘pretty’ is a liability for many of the women in “Desire.” The more valued attribute is the capacity for love. They approach life with a passion that fuels them and consumes them. We, as an American audience, are confronted (literally) with their raw emotions and with our own country’s (and subsequently our) roles in their lives. It’s a difficult thing to have your comfortable veil of pop-culture smugness stripped from you.

The performances were spot-on gorgeous. I especially liked Suehyla El-Attar’s approach to her characters, and when, in the final moments of the play, one of her characters broke down chanting her relative’s names and repeating “I love you” with the fierce desperation of helplessness, I was transported. (And wishing I had a box of tissues). When curtain call came, and I stood in ovation I actually found that my legs were a bit weak. It is a rare piece that so moves me.

I wish I had seen this earlier in its run so that I might encourage people to go. I think especially, it is a show for mothers, for sisters, for friends. It closes in a few days, so it’s not too late. But bring a box of tissues.
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Rating by EKFricke
I should have clicked on the NR button - I didn't mean to rate this as a "0" - in fact, I loved it - I just don't like number ratings in general so I always choose NR. This is the opposite of "0" on my scale.

L
Everywoman -- A Tapestry
by Dedalus
Friday, May 4, 2007
4.0
Tapestries are interesting creations. Tiny threads, in and of themselves barely unique, weave together to form an image that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Lay the threads end-to-end or side-to-side, and, the first good breeze will ruin any chance of creating the magic that is a weave.

Such is Heather Raffo’s “9 Parts of Desire,” a collection of monologues by Iraqi women, currently on view at Horizon Theatre. Individually, they are short and colorful snapshots of 9 women, in and of themselves barely unique. Yet, woven together, they create a surprisingly vibrant and vivid and vital portrait of life in Iraq, and, more universally, what it means to be a woman in a time and place of war.

And yet, when viewed by a sleepy pseudocritic in an undercooled theatre, the threads sometimes dissipate in a regrettable lapse of attention, leaving gaps and smears and clumps of color where there should be focus and raw emotion. This is to criticize the pseudocritic – the tapestry on view remains sublime.

The play was originally written as a monologue to be performed by its author, Heather Raffo. Ms. Raffo is an Iraqi-American who travelled to Iraq in a standard “search for roots.” By living with and befriending various women from all walks of life, she was struck by the universality at the core of these women, so different from the American “norm,” so superficially alien. She created a series of monologues by 9 women, composites of those she had known and loved. Her monologues shift from one to another and back, sometimes in mid-sentence, and mid-thought. The technique cleverly shows that, at root, these women carry in them a thread of commonality that is truer than the differences that surround them. The “Otherness” is merely color on common threads – yet it’s that color that tell the tapestry’s story, that provides the magic that is its substance.

In Horizon’s production, three actresses trade off the monologues, sometimes even trading off the characters. Carolyn Cook is the bohemian artist swimming upstream against the male-dominated ethos without drowning. She is also the British-educated doctor, horrified at what wartime radiation is doing to the next generation and terrified of her own vulnerability. Marianne Fraulo is the old woman of Baghdad, speaking in metaphor and collecting old shoes to feed to the river. She is also the bitter ex-patriate in London, completely political, completely practical. Suehyla El-Attar is the talkative divorcee, sad at betrayal, open to the siren-call of her heart. She is also the young girl, the fan of Justin Timberlake who barely understands the currents that will control her life and future. Each has a story to tell, a betrayal or atrocity to describe, a passion to share, an instinct for survival and love that transcends time and place.

All the performances are absolutely brilliant. The actresses drift into and out of their traditional black robes, moving from anonymity to brilliant “Here-I-Am” clarity of character with the shrug of a shoulder, a shift of an accent. As the play winds down, they become more and more alike until they are interchangeable. They succeed at the impossible task of becoming a perfect ensemble without ever interacting with each other.

So, this is the picture we’re given. It’s a picture that speaks to that which is alive in us. It is a picture that is specific to time and place, character and story. Yet, it is a picture of all times and places, characters and stories. It is a reminder that womankind, humankind, is a virtually solid tapestry of miracle and color and common-thread experience.

And, if I hadn’t been such a narcoleptic old fart of a pseudo-critic, it would have been a pitch-perfect experience.


-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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