‘War and Peace’ and it’s many manifestations has proven a fertile subject for film and theater. Far Away, a dystopian fable written by the famed British playwright Caryl Churchill, and beautifully directed by Jason Loewith, is part of that genre. Georgetown University is presenting this play as the opening production of the Theater and Performance Studies’ ‘Season of War and Peace.’ Churchill is known for her challenging, politically sensitive works. Director Jason Loewith has chosen this provocative work which resonates with the social justice and global concerns for which Georgetown University is known.
This play starts out using the trappings of a British cozy, and ends up seeming to be a precursor of The Hunger Games. Initially there is a Nordic blonde who seems to be providing shelter and nurturing to an innocent young relative who is, unfortunately, prone to asking more and more awkward questions about what she has seen that night. Are we in Nazi Germany, South Africa, the pre-confederate south? Could it be a lynching, or a rescue? We hope it’s the latter.
What develops remains somewhat of a mystery but there is at least one dead body and numerous characters whose immediate history and predicament seem dire. We know they are wearing numbers and are being paraded for a pageant which appears joyless and somewhat ominous. As audience members we are asked to speculate about the meaning and purpose, as the spectacle becomes more and more flamboyant and surreal. Alexandra Waldon, the blonde Harper, has a very expressive face and does a great job of becoming more and more alarmed, and eventually quite sinister. Blond hair starts to produce Aryan race associations. While the profile of the victims is never established, like many of the ambiguities in the play, this seems to reflect a desire to tell a universal story, letting the audience fill in the blanks. The author and his crew succeed to a large extent, thanks to the discussion which follows and which are, in my view, essential to derive the most meaning from the work.
Joan is played by the able Olivia Duff, who is a credible young woman speaking truth whatever the consequences, later becoming a working girl. Todd (Addison Williams) demonstrates a wide range of affect and adds a dynamic presentation to the central players, which the Parade Captains enhance through their forced march across the stage.
Costume Designer T. Tyler Stumpf has incorporated parade hats – originally designed by Catherine Zuber for the November 2002 production at the New York Theatre Workshop. Sivigny has added numerous other ornate and spectacular creations, working in collaboration with Scenic Designer Lisi Stoessel and Costume Designer T. Tyler Stumpf. Sound Designer Veronica J. Lancaster has added ambient noises which provide clues to the rustic setting, creating an increasing sense of isolation and displacement.
Georgetown University has provided a wonderful evening of intellectually stimulating entertainment.
Running Time: 55 minutes, followed by a facilitated audience discussion.
Far Awayplays through October 20, 2012 on Thursday-Saturday, October 11-13 at 8 p.m.;Sunday, October 14 at 2 p.m.;Wednesday-Saturday, and October 17-20 at 8 p.m. at the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Devine Studio Theatre - O St NW & 37th St NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.