nytheatre.com review by Lynn Berg
August 22, 2010
The New York International Fringe Festival is billing itself again as "New York's Best Staycation," but you'd only want to visit the places Flesh-Light Stories goes from the comfort of the theatre. The play takes its audience on some unsettling trips to the Congo, Peru, and Iraq in four scenes set in times of war. As you can imagine the snapshots are not of smiling faces. You won't regret this harrowing theatrical expedition, though, because of the effective scenes and even stronger performances.
A dancer enters at the beginning of the production and between each scene she acts as our silent but dangerous guide. She waves her pistol sometimes firing off rounds and seemingly setting off Flesh-Light Stories' dark games of "Who has the weapon/power?" Much of the play's action, both personal and political, seems to revolve around that question, reminding me of Mao Tse Tung's equation that "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
Flesh-Light Stories stands as another example of good, socially-conscious theatre that shows many of us lives and situations far from our own. While setting his scenes in times of war, what Roderick Nash seems most fascinated with is what being powerless and powerful does to people. Of course sympathies are for the powerless, but more interestingly, Nash explores what taking power and wielding power over others does to the powerful. Occasionally the characters touch on questions of faith which is difficult to ignore as a common justification for war, but mainly the production's blood flows from its regard of force and power.
The actors grasp this material deftly and all the performances ring authentic. The most powerful and effective scene comes first from former lovers in Brazzaville, Congo. Aimiende Negbenebor and Rashid Taylor give their characters' history and chemistry a palpability and their compelling, nuanced performances make the surprises in their power games especially satisfying. Selma Cifka as an Iraqi museum curator and Jorge Lopez as a Peruvian tour guide also give particularly forceful renderings in a show that features a consistently strong cast.
If you're equipped for an outing to see horrors of war and devastating effects of power struggles, Flesh-Light Stories does reward. It's a difficult trip to take but it's also an emotionally and intellectually fulfilling journey thanks to the forceful writing and powerful performances.