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  •  REVIEW: I, UNSEEN

    I, Unseen

    A load of Ka-bull

    The poorly written "I, Unseen" offers no special insight into the plight of women in Afghanistan.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    "I, Unseen" is a case in which a good cause just doesn't make a good play. Marika Mashburn's play attempts to dramatize the now-well-known plight of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime — a human-rights horror, to be sure. But it does so with such clumsy writing that it makes a tepid impression on the audience at best.

      
    I, UNSEEN
    Written by: Marika Mashburn.
    Directed by: Donovan Johnson.
    Cast: Alison Caldwell, Lora Lee Ecobelli, Linda Hetrick, Dan Hicks, Donovan Johnson IV, Jennifer Larkin, Nina Millin, Grace Pettijohn, Ryan Tramont, Adria Woomer.
     SCHEDULE
    Jan Hus Playhouse
    351 East 74th St.
    Feb. 8-24, 2002

    The play uses three tactics to pursue its subject. The first — and worst — is having four of the actresses tromp around the stage shouting expository paragraphs about the lack of international action to save the Afghan women. To punctuate their earnestness with a pointless racket, they pick up chairs and pound them on the stage floor.

    The second tactic is the only one that works even a little — attempting to dramatize the stories of two families. In one, the mother, once a doctor, is forced out of work and into the home where the only use she has for her talent is caring for her pregnant daughter. In the other, a woman who leads clandestine pep rallies for women's rights lives dangerously with her husband, a Taliban police officer.

    The third tactic is to introduce two Americans, an alleged psychologist and her assistant, doing research on the condition of women in Kabul. She is clearly the worst researcher in the Western world. When one Afghan character fails to give the answers she's looking for, the psychologist argues with the woman and tells her she doesn't know what she's talking about — something a real academic would find laughable.


      
    I don't believe the playwright knows the subject or the characters on any intimate level — her research appears to be confined to web surfing and her writing never captures the true voices of the women who are supposed to be her subjects.  

      
    Bad writing and shallow understanding sink "I, Unseen." I don't believe the playwright knows the subject or the characters on any intimate level — her research appears to be confined to web surfing and her writing never captures the true voices of the women who are supposed to be her subjects. The effort is like that of a student who tries to fake her way through an exam without having done her homework.

    Jarringly, the play concludes with a loudly vocalized plea for the world to do something to stop the Taliban's repression — which, as the reader may be aware, has already happened. It's not my business to tell a playwright what to do, but a little quick surgery would at least have saved this play from announcing its own outdatedness. The joyously uncovered faces of the Afghan women themselves have already spoken more eloquently than this play.

    FEBRUARY 12, 2002
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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