MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE Edited from Corrie’s writing by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, directed by Kate Lushington (Theatre PANIK). At Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). To June 29. Pwyc?$35. 416-531-1827. See Continuing. Rating: NNN
My Name is Rachel Corrie isn’t somuch a political play as the laying bare of a young woman’s humanity. Based on the words of the American peace activist tragically killed in Gaza in 2003, the show offers evidence of Corrie’s big heart and writing skill, but its organization (by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner) is sometimes a problem.
Early on, Corrie (Bethany Jillard) wonders where to start her story – her internal editor is frequently at work – and after a brief, funny, often self-deprecating look at early childhood, the story moves into high gear with an eye-opening trip to Russia that awakens not only her consciousness but also her determination to become a writer.
In a fine performance that anchors the show, Jillard evolves from an energetic innocent to a more knowing, questioning woman who understands that the world isn’t always good. The actor beautifully captures the quality of being a clear, ingenuous vessel gradually filled with experience’s tinted wisdom; her voice even drops a few notes as anger and despair become part of her life.
Director Kate Lushington does a mostly fine job of exploring Rachel’s world, especially in using a giant chalkboard for the frequent lists Rachel makes to order her life. At times, though, the director gives Jillard too much physical work; better to just listen to Corrie’s words and not see her quite as active.Cameron Davis’s video design opens up the story in an unexpected fashion, with images that are rarely mere reflections of the text.
But the script’s structure sometimes betrays the tale. For instance, a move back in time to 9/11 and Rachel’s activities that day don’t so much enrich her background as keep us from moving forward with her life.
Still, the Theatre PANIK production has many shining moments, and it’d be a shame not to catch a young actor at the top of her game.