The Fever Chart: Four Visions of the Middle East at Eclipse Theatre Company | Theater review
Naomi Wallace’s four short portraits of life in the modern Middle East make real horrors surreal.
The last production in Eclipse’s season devoted to playwright Naomi Wallace renders complicated material both accessible and unsettling. In four short plays, Wallace offers distilled portraits of lives lived within and despite the intricate entanglement that is the Middle East. At best, these plays testify to lives that thrive in the face of unimaginable grief and devastation. “Do you think this is the only world?” a Palestinian father (Vincent Mahler) asks an Israeli woman (Mouzam Makkar) in “Between This Breath and You,” invoking their linked humanity. Wallace clearly envisions other worlds; she is a poet whose use of language is at times light and playful, at other times brutally direct. Her characters move in and out of real and dream worlds, life and death—suggesting that Wallace herself believes this is not the only world.
The actors are uniformly strong; Edgar Sanchez is particularly impressive in “The Retreating World,” as an Iraqi bird collector forced to serve in Saddam’s army. Steven Fedoruk and Sarah Moeller’s direction highlights the surreality of each piece. Shadow and light, emptiness and layers enhance an overall sense that, while these are very specific versions of hell, we could be anywhere. Not unlike the late visions of Beckett or Caryl Churchill, Fever Chart is allegory in real time, an apocalyptic vision of an all too true 21st-century horror.