Dying to Help
Portrait of a Northwest idealist
BY SUZI STEFFEN
|Mrya Sea Kaminski in Rachel Corrie. Photo: Chris Bennion|
Walking into the Seattle Rep's production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, I get leafletted and talked to, but in a dispirited, rainy, PNW kind of way. "We want you to be aware of the situation," the man from the American Jewish Committee says. "We're pro-play; they're anti-play," says another man; he delivers a glossy brochure with a list of Palestinian children killed by the Israel Defense Force. But they're both polite and calm. Even the guy walking up and down the rivulet-streaked street with a "Jimmy Carter: YES!" placard seems practically somnolent. But come on, who wrote the propaganda (both in my hand and in a paid ad in the playbill) that says "My Name Is Rachel Corrie does not tell the whole story" — Hello? Really? A play created out of the emails and diary entries of a 23-year-old from Olympia doesn't depict all of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I'm shocked.
Outside controversy aside, the play, an intense one-woman show for Marya Sea Kaminski, who's onstage approximately 89.5 of the play's no-intermission 90 minutes, leaves room for complex emotions and reactions. Kaminski looks and acts too mature to play the callow young Rachel at the beginning, but by the second half, when Corrie's intensity and terror mount, the actor's strengths emerge. The script, edited together from Corrie's diaries and emails by Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman, presents a surprisingly seamless picture of Corrie, basically a young Evergreen activist with a kid's goofiness and messy contradictions wedded to an incredibly deep desire to make the world better. Though the early babblings of a self-involved young woman are hard to take, Corrie, through Kaminski, becomes more compelling when she starts sending emails from Gaza. The climax, a long cry of pure anger and frustration that the world isn't paying enough attention, underscores just how important the play would have been to Rachel Corrie. If you can spare the time and dollars (tix are $10 for people under 25, $26 for seniors), the play will leave you thinking and talking both about the life of Rachel Corrie and the complexities of the conflict in the Middle East. Maybe you'll start learning more about the histories and hopes of those involved in the conflict — and that's something people on all sides of the issue could use.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie has extended its run through May 6 at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Tix at www.seattlerep.org or 877-900-9285. $10-$40.