“The International” at the cell – A Twenty First Century Salon (Closed Sunday September 29, 2013)

September 28, 2013 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
By Tim Ruddy
Directed by Christopher Randolph
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The recent chemical warfare waged by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his own people is a graphic reminder of how indiscriminate war is and how equally indiscriminate those who wage war are. Playwright Tim Ruddy uses the July 1995 genocide at Srebrenica to underscore what happens when innocent people are caught in the crossfire of conflict and are even targeted for extinction as the boys and men at Srebrenica were. Ruddy’s “The International” views the genocide from three distinct points of view: first from that of Irena Hasanovic a Muslim woman living in the area of incursion; second from that of Hans a member of the International forces charged with protecting the locals from the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS); and finally from the point of view of Dave a young truck driver who is watching the genocide play out live on television at his Los Angeles home and local bar. All three are hedging their bets on a felicitous outcome in real time.

Dave is down on his luck and in big trouble with his wife. His entire extended family is staying at his apartment, headed for the Disneyland Resort. Dave does not have the one-thousand dollars needed to take his wife and daughter to the theme park. So Dave joins his loser relatives in a bet that the VRS will be successful and murder the locals: his relatives believe that the United States would never let that happen. But Dave is not alone in the gambling game. Irena is betting that my giving herself to the VRS soldiers overnight she will spare her son’s life. Hans is hanging onto the hope that he can make a difference in the outcome of the attack and head safely back home..

Unfortunately, Dave is the only perceived “winner” here. The VRS wins, the United States never intervenes, and Hans is helpless to stop the incursion and the genocide. Dave wins the cash and heads off to the Disneyland Resort. Obviously this apparent win is temporary since Dave ultimately loses everything including his sense of worth and his integrity. Neither Irena nor Hans have similar “luck.” After giving herself to the soldier all night long, Irena’s son is shot in the face by his non-Muslim school teacher. And Hans does not get airlifted out of danger but ends up killing a young VRS soldier.

Carey Van Driest delivers a riveting performance as Irena. She understands every nuance of her character and develops that character with remarkable craft. Ms. Driest has taken the time – as one would expect – to know her monologue without referring to the script. Oddly, all three actors have the script in front of them on music stands. There is such power in delivering Tim Ruddy’s brilliant script without reading it. Ted Schneider also delivers a strong performance as Dave; however, he often needs to refer to the script in his monologue. Unfortunately, the director of the piece Christopher Randolph who plays Hans heavily depends on the script and rarely can deliver lines without holding pages of the script in his hands. “The International” is a powerful and life-changing piece of theatre and should be performed without script. There might be justification for the dependence on the script; however, this should be clearly noted in the program.

There is some business in front of a Pollock-like image in the beginning and at the end of the play which needs some directorial attention in order to have it make more sense. Whatever it is supposed to be, the action here pales in comparison to the text of “The International,” despite the performance being compromised by lack of memorization. Ruddy’s play makes clear the senselessness of war and the callousness of those who make war. To have a political chain of command necessary to save lives is simply nonsense. And to be able to watch live on television human beings murdered is demonic.