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We Are Not These Hands 

Disorienting and morally confusing, like all travel

Wednesday, Jul 12 2006
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While trekking recently through the poorest of villages in China, New York playwright Sheila Callaghan could always find an underground Internet cafe. The Web’s plethora of glittery images trumpeting almighty capitalism, merchandising, and porn juxtaposed uncomfortably against villagers who couldn’t even afford shoes. As a response, Callaghan wrote this compelling play. In an imaginary Third World country in which “oppressors” use machetes to chop off law-breaking ears and hands, two local street-urchin girls peer through the back window of a glossy cafe, plotting an escape from their situation. Inside, a well-dressed foreigner -- most likely American -- is traveling to escape a world that revolves around “fancy cheeses and spa treatments” while researching a book on the aforementioned societal conflict. The “have/have-not” dilemma that most U.S. tourists are exposed to is not easily solved, and Callaghan is engaging and not overbearing in dramatizing this divide. Crowded Fire Theater Company’s choice to portray the two girls goofing around like Beavis and Butt-Head subtly undermines the rich material, but the great sensory sound design of otherworldly computer-beep electronica mixed with first-rate lighting, sets, and subliminal video projection wonderfully induces the disorientation and moral confusion of venturing beyond our comfortable borders.

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Nathaniel Eaton

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