It's like Dad is handing over the car keys: Marya Sea Kaminski, of WET, has been cast in the solo show about Rachel Corrie opening at the Rep this March. Jennifer Zeyl, also of WET (and Genius winner), is designing the show. Braden Abraham, literary manager at the Rep, is directing.
Which means that the highly controversial play about the local woman run over by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza, probably the Rep's biggest PR risk this season, is being handled entirely by young up-and-comers. (Almost entirely: Lighting designer L. B. Morse has a long and distinguished resumé.)
Which seems a little weird. Maybe even fishy. Abraham has assembled a talented team, but he is, by Rep standards, an untested director. He has directed some shorts, some readings, a couple of pieces in Spokane, and Kuwait at Theater Schmeater—it's commendable that the Rep is giving him a break, but it seems out of character. What gives? Allow me a cynical fantasy:
In early 2006, when the Rep decided to do the production, it looked like an easy slam dunk (and, of course, they really believed in the project, etc.): The London run was winning awards, scheduled to transfer to New York; wouldn't Corrie-the-play do even better in Seattle? Corrie-the-woman is a hero out here, a liberal martyr, and all the local bourgeois bohemians and earth mothers and self-described activists will buy tickets by the wheelbarrow. They'll give tickets as gifts. They'll buy tickets and hand them out to hobos, because if a young woman like her could make the ultimate sacrifice for The Cause, you'd have to be an asshole not to pony up in her memory.
The Rep had settled on Corrie before the shitstorm hit in March—because of her "controversial" musings on Israel, the play was forced out of the New York Theatre Workshop (run by Jim Nicola, a producer of Caryl Churchill and Tony Kushner—not exactly a shrinking violet). A Toronto theater canceled its run because, one board member told Variety, it would "provoke a negative reaction in the Jewish community."
Then came the mixed reviews. In October, when Corrie finally arrived in off-Broadway, Ben Brantley wrote in the New York Times: "[F]or long stretches Rachel Corrie feels dramatically flat, even listless." New York magazine called it unimportant, "a well-meaning wisp." That same month, Rep artistic director David Esbjornson told Rep literary manager Braden Abraham that he should direct the play.
The charitable interpretation: Abraham and his team are young hotshots and the Rep is giving them a chance to wrestle with a rich and relevant play. Everybody wins. The Rep gets street cred, the WET artists get a big sandbox to play in, and Rep audiences get the best of both. The uncharitable interpretation: Between the controversy and the possibility of suckage, no veteran director wanted to be involved and the Rep is distancing itself from the production. And if Corrie fails, the Rep can use that as an excuse to refrain from working with young artists again.