nytheatre.com review by Chris Harcum
June 15, 2007
Isadora Productions' work-in-progress collaboration project, Becoming Natasha, is currently stirring up dialogue on the $10 billion global human trafficking industry in Culture Project's Women Center Stage Festival. Combining research from Safe Horizon, the FBI, and Amnesty International as well as Victor Malarek's book, The Natashas: Inside the Global Sex Trade and transcripts from "Johns" on several websites, this ensemble has created a text that literally had the fellow seated next to me nervously biting his nails throughout the whole performance. Though it ranks with drugs and illegal guns as one of the world's top three criminal activities, I have to admit my ignorance of what has been dubbed "the world's oldest oppression" until I saw this show.
Under Gabe Maxson's deceptively simple direction, Stacey Cervellino, Athena Fitzpatrick, Anna Klein, and Michelle Maxson illuminate many facets of this issue and take the audience around the world and back again to show the pervasiveness of forced prostitution. These protean actresses portray men in Brooklyn posting insider tips on where to find action, advertisements for sexual adventures overseas, women who are victims, and much more. They show Mom and Pop sex shops, big business prostitution, and even a madam who was once a human trafficking victim. At times, the actresses show extreme vulnerability, pathos, and versatility. They transition seamlessly, giving a sex trade channel surfing effect, while they stay seated the entire performance behind a 12-foot table, as though at a press conference.
Becoming Natasha has been through several incarnations since 2005. Currently, it is stripped of design and multimedia elements, which forces the audience to listen. As this production develops further, I hope they continue to add more dimensions to this complex puzzle by truly embodying without comment the "Johns" and pimps that are the hidden engine of this problem, by showing how trafficking is exacerbated in Holland because of legalized prostitution, and by giving the audience some perspective on what to do about the problem. Most of these things came across in the post-show discussion but it would serve the piece more to have them in it. The work so far by Isadora Productions in bringing awareness to this worldwide problem is admirable. May this show continue to grow and the trafficking of humans decrease as a result.