Sarah’s War: Death of a Dream
Unpacking a parent’s worst nightmare, the death of a child, Sarah’s mother, Ann (Terry Davis) meticulously arranges the bloody jeans and blouse as if trying to piece together how her daughter went from a carefree co-ed to being crushed to death under a bulldozer’s blade a world away.
Sarah’s War presented by Freedom Theatre West is based on the true story of Rachel Corrie, a peace activist who was reportedly killed while trying to stop house demolitions on the Gaza Strip in 2003. It is a riveting tale of young idealism and naiveté buried under the weight of steadfast righteousness and never ending war. Sarah (Abica Dubay) eschews her family hopes of becoming a doctor to pursue a dream greater than herself-to become a human shield in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Sarah announces to her nonplussed Uncle Don (Alan Wasserman) “I am going to Palestine” she does so with the zeal of a child asking for money to go to Disneyland.
Sarah’s passing pierces her family’s orderly façade as those close to her seek to find meaning and to lay blame. Uncle Don’s I-told- you-so wife Linda (Ann Bronston) asks all the logical questions, what was a nice girl like Sarah doing thousands of miles away in war zone? Sarah’s sister (Adria Tennor Blotta) wears her resentment like a hijab, furious her own pregnancy is being upstaged by her sister’s death and Sarah’s father Neil (Lindsey Ginter) is a vacuous cell of a man who treats the loss of his daughter like a bad joke he doesn’t quite get. Playwright Valerie Dillman’s script is steady and revelatory as the narrative ricochets between Sarah’s family back home and her brief and harrowing time in Gaza.
Throughout the play, Davis (in a dual role as the American mother and Palestine grandmother Zakayah) is the emotional courier. Her pain and confusion is always on the brim. Watching Ann try to bring rationality to her grief by planning a trip of her own to see for herself, when, why and how her daughter’s dream was destroyed is both restrained and heartbreaking.
Other standouts in the cast are Noora (Dina Simon) Sarah’s unwelcoming host, a “ghost” who eventually picks up Sarah’s challenge to write her own story. Caitlin (Marley McClean) Sarah’s comrade who lives to tell of Sarah’s tragic end and soldier Avi (Will Green) whose fatal meeting with Sarah imagines what might have been. Sarah’s War thrives under the brisk director of Matt McKenzie.
Playing now through March 18, 2012 at the Hudson Theatre 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90038. (***1/2 out of 4 stars).