Numbed by Numbers

By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  June 9, 2009

Any play on such a subject has us at mass starvation. Why amplify? Piles of bodies are far more affecting when imagined instead of counted. A little accomplishes a lot: tree bark ground into "a kind of flour," a powerful detail here, is diminished next to a mention of dead horses dug up and eaten. Too often, pathos slips into bathos: not only is a girl begging for crumbs at a bread line, but her emaciated collapsed body also is kicked to death by the callous store manager.

Playwright Eliet spent time in Ukraine a few years ago, as a director and a Fulbright scholar. In production information, he tells of a man saying that his grandmother was sent to a labor camp for seven years for stealing seven grains of wheat from the field of a collective farm after harvest. Someday, perhaps the story of that specific woman will be vibrantly imagined by the playwright in a play that shows more than it tells.

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