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Theater review: 'Sarah's War' at the Hudson Mainstage

February 21, 2012 |  2:30 pm

Abica Dubay and Terry Davis in "Sarah's War"
Amid the endless polarized chaos and bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, is there any space between protecting human rights and supporting terrorists? Seeking that elusive territory of meaningful compassion is the goal of Valerie Dillman's thoughtful and heartfelt original drama, "Sarah's War," a Freedom Theatre West production at the Hudson Mainstage. 

Dillman's play is based on the life and death of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American peace activist who in 2003 was crushed by a bulldozer manned by Israel Defense Forces when she tried to intervene in their demolition of a Palestinian home. Already the subject of several dramatic adaptations, Corrie's fate at the intersection of American, Israeli and Palestinian agendas has made her a lightning rod for political rhetoric on all sides.

In this fictionalized version of events, Dillman looks past easy labels. Neither heroic martyr nor naive dupe, protagonist Sarah (Abica Dubay) finds herself in over her head trying to apply the nonviolent protest tactics of Gandhi and Martin Luther King in volatile Gaza, where she's mistrusted by everyone. 

Through Matt McKenzie's assured direction of a fine cast, the piece finds its most intimate perspective on Sarah's death in the emotional aftermath for her family. Between her mom (Terry Davis), whose sense of guilt and sorrow are inseparable from her own life regrets, her indecisive dad (Lindsey Ginter), Jewish uncle (Allan Wasserman) and isolationist sister (Adria Tennor Blotta), no motives are pure here. As they grapple with grief the family becomes an ironic microcosm of the failings and limitations that play out on a global stage, supplemented with vividly sympathetic characterizations of Palestinians, Israelis and fellow activists whose lives Sarah touched.

Refusing to frame the conflict in terms of heroes and villains, Dillman's play reminds us that although it's easy to pass judgment from halfway around the world, understanding is much harder to come by.

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-- Philip Brandes

"Sarah's War," Hudson Mainstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 18. $25-$30. (310) 657-5511 or www.plays411.com/sarahswar. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: Abica Dubay and Terry Davis. Credit: John P. Flynn.

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