Manhattan Ensemble Theater
David Fishelson, Artistic Director
James Sparnon, Producing Director
NINE PARTS OF DESIRE
Written and Performed by HEATHER RAFFO
MET (www.met.com), 55 Mercer St., NYC, October 9, 2004 - June 12, 2005
Directed by JOANNA SETTLE
Sets ANTJE ELLERMAN
Costumes MATTIE ULLRICH
Lighting PETER WEST
Original Music & Sound Design OBADIAH EAVES
Production Stage Manager LISA GAVALETZ
Press Representation RICHARD KORNBERG & ASSOC., RICK MIRAMONTEZ
Heather Raffo’s emotionally charged NINE PARTS OF DESIRE is one of the most impressive performances I have seen. That this is a solo performance about Iraqi women is timely enough, but coming as the culmination of eleven years of research and international interviews, be assured that Ms. Raffo’s work is a thoroughly developed and thought-provoking enterprise.
What NINE PARTS OF DESIRE does, from the perspective of the audience, is introduce the women of Iraq to us in the form of individual and quite different characters. There is a young girl who has seen her father taken from the family, a pregnant doctor surrounded by cancer and babies born with birth defects, a spirited painter who slowly reveals the depths of her suffering, an expatriate living in England, a Bedouin who had fled Iraq, only to return and an Iraqi-American desperate to maintain family ties, to name a handful.
The individual lives are intriguing, but what makes them resonate is Ms. Raffo’s flawless and impeccable transformation from one to another. With a slight alteration to her costume and by adjusting her accent, she shifts from character to character. In the course of these monologues, we, the audience, have our hearts and minds challenged. We find, in NINE PARTS OF DESIRE, that the Iraqis, like us, are torn about the war. Raffo’s women have different points of view, and different life experiences. Some have seen generations of conflict and horrible tortures inflicted under Saddam Hussein. Some have been born into times of war. Some have fled. Some hate the war, but hated Hussein more. Some remain with the ruins of their former lives, living among the broken buildings and dead bodies that have come along with the Americans. All make us think.
Also notable, do not let the fact that NINE PARTS OF DESIRE is a solo performance lead you to believe that it is not a fully staged production. The characters Heather Raffo portrays blend together into a coherent dramatic tapestry, and as individuals they are oh so real and touching. Her costume is an integral part of her performance, as it helps her distinguish the women. The set, too, is integral, and the tense moments just would not be the same without the sound and lighting designers.
Yes, I say see NINE PARTS OF DESIRE, written and performed by Iraqi-American Heather Raffo, and playing at the Manhattan Ensemble Theater. This is the kind of play that can make those of us fortunate enough to be in a part of the world where we can enjoy the comforts of the arts reconsider all of these lofty ideals that we expect and project from within the comfort of our four solid walls, On Demand, DSL, iPod, Fresh Direct, palmtop, laptop realities.
- Kessa De Santis -