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A Woman's Place
The Attic Theatre Ensemble
Reviewed by Jose Ruiz
copyright 2007

(A Woman's Place included four plays. This excerpt contains only those comments referring to The Body Washer.)

When historians speak of the Dark Ages, they refer to the era between 450 to 1000 A.D. when there was a lack of contemporary written history and material cultural achievements. The term has stretched to depict a time of backwardness, expanding its scope to include a time of lack of education and great ignorance.

So what does any of this have to do with the production at the Attic Theatre? If one will be so kind as to indulge us for a moment, the connection may become clear. Every year the Attic invites playwrights to submit one-act plays for a competition and this year the Denise Ragan Wisenmeyer One Act Marathon yielded four finalist submissions from well over 100 entries. The banner title of the production is A Womanís Place, a theme that allows for several variations and myriad permutations within each variation...

THE BODY WASHER is the first offering, and this is a powerful piece of theatre that grabs you from the very start. We see Niki, a young American woman soldier, caught deep in the mire of war, so scared and confused that she shoots an innocent civilian Iraqi woman fearing she could have been a terrorist. At the same time, Amy, a journalist is so fed up and depressed with the war, she decides her reports will no longer deal with the human element, but rather just numbers. She rattles off casualty figures, starting with tens and twenties for the early days of the war quickly escalating her count to hundreds per day. She happens to meet the sister of the woman Niki killed, and discovers how the people really feel about Americans. The word "hatred" is not strong enough to describe them.

Mara, a Moslem woman whose job is washing dead bodies before burial, tells her story speaking between Niki and Amy. Mara does not look at the morality of death. Her job is to cleanse the bodies and prepare them for burial in the tradition of her religion, and her matter of fact explanation and description of what she does is so chillingly casual one is both horrified and mesmerized. Blanche Ramirez is exceptional as Mara, creating a bridge between the other two that shows the effects this insane war can have. Julia Sinclair plays journalist Amy with a resigned attitude, giving us the feeling that her job has become an albatross, which she canít shake.

The scariest of the three is Amber Flamminio, playing Niki as someone who knows she has crossed the line of morality and is trying desperately to justify it. We get the feeling that Niki is deathly afraid, not so much of being killed in action, but afraid that it will become easier for her to kill again. If we go back to the explanation of the Dark Ages, we see that author Rosemary Frisino Toohey has created her Iraq as a place where ignorance, superstition and lack of education abound, most of it created by this government with its fanatical insistence on "staying the course". John Szura directs this gem.

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