nytheatre.com review by Cate Cammarata
July 18, 2012
How do you speak of the unspeakable? The atrocities committed by the Serbian military against the Bosnian people during the Bosnian War (1992-1994) continue to echo throughout the region. Especially heinous were the mass rapes against the Muslim women, a form of ethnic cleansing and psychological warfare. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 girls and women between the ages of 12 and 60 were detained and systematically raped as a weapon of war. Theatregoers are often reluctant to tackle such difficult issues, yet it goes to the heart of the social function of theatre itself. The Fallen by Yasmine Beverly Rana is a theatrical work that's as explosive as a piece of investigative journalism but told as a story about individuals.
The action is revealed through the use of flashbacks centering on a mother and daughter over a span of twenty years. Six people are caught up in these horrific circumstances; two are Serbian soldiers, four are victims. They serve to put a human face upon a conflict that is still very much alive, for the thousands of children born as a result of this cruel torture have now reached adulthood and live among them today as a constant reminder.
Seventeen year old Anais (Caroline Tamas) looks down on her city of Sarajevo from her balcony and has figured out from YouTube and Google that she is one of these children, making her mother one of the female victims. Tamas gives an excellent performance of a young woman on a quest to find her own identity. Jen Taher as her mother, Mirela, frightens us with her raw portrayal of one of the female survivors. Alive merely because she's not dead, she embodies the anguish and anger that still exists among the vanquished twenty years later. Our hearts go out to her as we watch her ordeal begin chained to a bed in a filthy detention center and, later, as she struggles to love her daughter. The pain is not confined to the abused, however; we see Joe Tuttle and Christopher J. Domig give outstanding performances as Serbian soldiers who wrestle with the inhumanity they are forced to commit upon an innocent person. Sanja Danilovic as Sabine and Brian Miskell as Carlo round out the cast to extend the war's influence into the present time.
Creative scenic design by Katherine Fry transports us from the rooftops of Sarajevo to Italy and into a museum in London; music and effective sound design by Janie Bullard believably keep us there. Although at times the pace of Caroline Reddick Lawson's production drags, The Fallen is an eye-opening piece of theatre shedding light on a horrendous time that few Americans understand.