11 October 2009

Backlog Catchup #1: Aftermath at New York Theatre Workshop

I saw Aftermath, Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank's docu-theatre piece on Iraqi refugees, a good few weeks ago, and now I'm, unfortunately, coming to you with word about it oh, just a week before it closes. Better late than not at all, or should I have pretended to be always on top of things? Too late!

Anyway. The question that Aftermath raises for me is more about theatrical form than its content - the content is fantastic, stories (verbatim interviews) of Iraqi refugees living in Jordan. It's not a war play, per se. It's more a highlighting of stories that are the result of war, but are about these people themselves, their lives, and for me it's an aspect of the war that I hadn't encountered. It was good to learn about these things. Not, like, fun, but good.

My question(s) about the form, though... why theatre? Aside from the fact that actors are taking on these voices, there isn't really anything theatrical about it. Even other docu-theatre, like The Laramie Project or This Beautiful City theatricalizes by having actors play multiple characters (giving the layer of a troupe bringing these stories to life) or, in the case of This Beautiful City, by musicalizing some sequences. Just like I felt about My Name is Rachel Corrie, I wasn't sure how much was added by putting this on a stage. But then, if these interviews were collected in a book or magazine article, I might not have seen them.

Theoretical (okay, somewhat practical) concerns aside, Aftermath is (or was, the several weeks ago I saw it) an effective and mostly engaging piece. (Amir Arison, whom I'd known as the sweetly hesitant adultering doctor in A Very Common Procedure gives a brilliant bravado performance as a succesful dermatologist, all gold chains and cocky posturing.) I'm glad I got to hear these stories, to hear these people's words.

So, okay, this only plays for one more week, though the 18th. You can get tickets for half price ($32.50 rather than the regular $60) with code AMFBK31. Call 212-947-8844 or go here. (It's too late for this now, but you should also know that New York Theatre Workshop's Sunday evening performances are always $20. Because they are awesome.)

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