nytheatre.com review by Jane Titus
August 14, 2009
Peace Warriors is an original script peopled with American intellectuals struggling and fighting to find meaning in their lives. Ostensibly the themes in the piece are liberal versus conservative, Palestine versus Israel, and recognition versus obscurity. The main characters of the piece are a mother and father and their child. This particular evening they have opened their home to their old professor from Columbia and an Israeli actress who is also a political activist. What ensues is an intense night of confronting personal and political issues among friends and professional associates.
Blue Line Arts' mission states that they bring together students and professionals in educational workshops, mentoring relationships and cultural exchange. This production seems to reflect these themes in the very structure of the play itself.
Doron Ben-Atar has written a compelling and largely successful play. He has coupled an examination of the highest motives with an expose of some of our baser drives. This makes for good drama. At times the rhetoric overwhelms the action of the play and as an audience member I got a bit lost. There are some scenes that might work better with a bit of judicious paring. And in a few later scenes the characters stop to have an idealistic discussion in the midst of hugely moving emotional moments. This is a problem—director Michael Bahar and the playwright could be a bit more cognizant of the possible lulls in dramatic action that are created by such dialogue.
The cast on the whole is very strong. Graham Stevens as GW, the visiting professor, has all the commensurate charm and intelligence to make me believe he was a successful academic. His command of the dialect and his authority made him a pleasure to watch. If I had any desire to see more, the only area I would comment on would be to say that perhaps he could have shown us a bit more of the character's dark side—his insatiable need for recognition and accolades from those around him.
Mark Sanders as Scooter (the father), Vivienne Cleary as Schlomtzion (the visiting actress), and Natalia Emanuel as the daughter present us with fully drawn characters who navigate the murky seas of this play with honesty and what integrity their characters can muster. Cleary particularly makes very specific choices that are compelling to watch, whether she is speaking or simply listening and responding to the other characters.
My only issue with the casting and execution in this play is with the character of Darryl (the mother), played by Marisa Mickel. She is a charming actress with obvious ability. I think that for this role she lacks a certain gravitas and authority that would have only pushed the play further if we had seen it. The role of Darryl is the lynchpin of the piece, the woman who is always referred to directly and indirectly throughout the entire play. Mickel is young for the role. It was hard for me to believe she had a 17-year-old daughter. She plays the devotion to her old lover very well and her insecurity and doubt about the direction her life is taking, but I missed the fire and depth of commitment I see in people who are truly dedicated to a cause. I found it hard to accept her as a tenured faculty member who had clawed her way to the top of the academic heap.
Considering all the vagaries that go into a FringeNYC show, this is an entertaining and challenging evening in the theatre. There are certain moments in the play that need more clarity and time. There was also a bit of a problem hearing certain pivotal information at crucial moments in the play. Despite these moments that are almost inevitable in producing on the fly in a Fringe Festival show, there were also moments of electric confrontation and drama in the piece that compensated nicely for any lost exchanges. Ben-Atar has written a piece that illuminates certain aspects of human nature with a steady and piercing beam. The issues of the price that dedication to a cause wreaks on the people involved and the brutal competition in academic circles are rarely addressed. Bravo to all involved.