The digital magazine of New York indie theater
nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
In 1992, war erupted in Bosnia. Nadja Halilbegovich was just 12 years old at
the time. In the midst of unimaginable devastation, she kept a diary, detailing
everything from playing with the children in her building, to being injured by
an exploding bombshell, to writing to President Clinton on behalf of the
children of Sarajevo, to her difficult and terrifying escape to America. Katie
Simon has taken Nadja’s entries and adapted them into a play. The result is
Sarajevo’s Child, a stunning, life-affirming piece of theatre.Actors Joey Dudding, Matthew Erickson, Lisa Lemley, Emma Lorraine, and Dana
Mierlak are young, energetic, and genuine. They take turns speaking Nadja’s
words and when one is speaking, the other four members of the ensemble become
everything else in the scene—other children, parents, a hospital bed, the walls
of a tunnel; nothing is too difficult for these versatile actors.The decision to have the ensemble share the challenge of playing Nadja is a
brilliant one. With five actors playing the part, we are constantly reminded
that this is not one isolated person’s experiences, but representative of the
plight of millions. We see the magnitude of war, but in a humanized way, without
it being reduced to just numbers.Michelle Bossy’s direction is powerful and innovative. No movement is
superfluous, and she is able to adapt children’s games into euphemisms for war.
Balls and jump ropes become implements of death and destruction. It’s shocking
and terrible, but amazing in its representation of how the lives of innocent
children are tainted by war. Throughout, Bossy creates strong, evocative images.
Frequently, Nadja’s diary entries mention attacks and the number of people
killed in them. As these death tolls are pronounced, the actors lay out small
white crosses along the front of the stage. Before long, the stage is covered
with them.The strong visual nature of the show is perfectly enhanced by Dana Sterling’s
dramatic lighting design. John D. Ivy’s sound design underscores the action
equally well. Bossy’s strong artistic style is imbued in every facet of this
production and the result is remarkable.Sarajevo’s Child is haunting and cannot be put out of the mind easily.
This, I suppose, is its intention. We should not forget about the Bosnian War
when innocent people, particularly children, are dying all around the world.
This is not just a play about a past war; it’s a timeless story that portrays
the horror of war—any war. We shouldn’t passively watch as people unnecessarily
die, and this play is just the call to action we need.
August 15, 2005