Monday, January 11, 2010

STAGE: Palestine, New Mexico

We greatly enjoyed Culture Clash's previous work in Chavez Ravine, so we were intrigued to see their new play Palestine, New Mexico at the Mark Taper Forum. It was a powerful and intriguing dramatic work, with Culture Clash's unique quirky point of view brought to bear this time on world politics. The story all takes place on a tribal reservation in New Mexico, where an army captain has come from Afghanistan to talk to the chief about the death of his son, but the tribe is not at all eager to receive her. But this story, like onions and ogres, has many layers, and as they are dramatically peeled back through the captain's encounters with various members of the tribe, the medicine man, the widow of the dead soldier, and finally the chief, the story we finally learn about how the soldier died, what he was trying to do in Afghanistan when he died, and how it connects to a secret history of his family and his tribe, it is ultimately astonishing and thought-provoking. Ultimately we are left to ponder some fascinating parallels between rival tribes and rival families, in America, in Afghanistan, and in the Middle East, as we see the remarkable "culture clash" of New Mexico's rocky cliffs and mountains flashing to Afghanistan's mountainous terrain, and a Native American soldier's casket being lead by someone singing the Jewish mourner's kaddish. Once again, an evening of powerful and provocative drama at the Taper.

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