| AMANDA JENSEN, LEFT, AND MADELEINE ROGERS |
IMAGE: Rio Hugo-Rio
Rachel Corrie was killed on March 16, 2003, by an Israeli soldier who, out of negligence or malice, crushed the 23-year-old Evergreen College student under the blade of a Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer as she attempted to defend the home of a Palestinian pharmacist in the Gaza Strip from demolition. Her death made her a martyr for the cause of Palestinian statehood, sparked protests around the country and attracted tasteless scorn from National Review. In 2005, actor Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, deputy editor of The Guardian, edited Corrie’s journals and correspondence into a 90-minute performance piece. Although well received in London, the New York premiere of My Name Is Rachel Corrie was canceled, reportedly to avoid offending unspecified Jewish leaders. The play has since had at least two dozen productions, but its detractors still maintain a website, rachelcorriefacts.org, dedicated to refuting the “simplistic, incomplete, one-sided portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
I don’t know what the site’s authors are afraid of; no one who is not already convinced that the Israeli persecution of the Palestinian people is a great injustice is likely to attend the show. That’s unfortunate, because the Portland production, directed by Megan Kate Ward, is a convincing (and simplistic, incomplete and one-sided) polemic against the ongoing violence. Corrie was a capable writer, and in her letters she movingly describes conditions that are intolerable to any decent person, regardless of one’s politics. The play is a passionate cry for peace, if not very good theater.
Ward has done good work with the script, turning the solo piece into a dialogue between adult (Amanda Jensen) and adolescent (Madeleine Rogers, a very engaging Grant High School junior) Rachels, who describe her upbringing and activism on a ruined, graffitied set. They sketch the outlines of a fascinating young woman, talented and strong-willed and a little naive, but the script never presents more than an outline—it is more eulogy than drama. It will raise your ire, but it cannot raise the dead.
SEE IT: Stark Street Theater, 600 SE Stark St., 293-3062. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays. Closes Oct. 30. $18, $15 students.