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Messiah Theatre Production: The Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East by Naomi Wallace

In his New York Times review, theatre critic Neil Genzlinger writes, “The Fever Chart, a well-made trilogy by Naomi Wallace, exploring that cauldron that is the Middle East, has absorbing characters, and sharp, evocative dialogue. Just as important, though, is what it doesn’t have: strap-on bombs or heart-felt hugs . . . Ms. Wallace has a much more subtle tale of loss to tell, and she does it beautifully.”

Ms. Wallace’s collection, subtitled Three Short Visions of the Middle East, offers three short plays, or visions: “A State of Innocence,” “Between This Breath and You,” and “The Retreating World.” The ruins of a zoo (or as Wallace describes it, “a space that once dreamed it was a zoo”) in Rafah, Palestine is the setting for “A State of Innocence.” The vision involves an encounter between a young Israeli soldier, a mysterious Palestinian woman, and an elderly Israeli architect who both builds settlements and attempts to reconstruct what has been destroyed in the protracted conflict.

In the second vision, “Between This Breath and You,” a Palestinian father risks arrest to visit the waiting room of a clinic in East Jerusalem after hours and meet face to face an Israeli nurse’s aide to tell about the loss of his son and the impact his death has had on the young woman’s life.

“The Retreating World” introduces us to Ali, a resident of Baghdad and a former Iraqi conscript who is addressing the International Pidgeon Convention. A lover of both birds and books, Ali speaks about the difficulties of life after his country’s defeat by U.S. forces, and of the loss not only of his dear friend Samir in the fighting, and the hell of war.

Wallace’s “multifaceted works explore the urgency and complexity of the Middle East’s political landscape through the voices and bodies of the people who inhabit it.”

Writing in Chicago Critic, Tom Williams states that “…Naomi Wallace’s four vignettes invite a great deal of dialogue – which is precisely their purpose. They are conversations about the Middle East, both in-and-of-itself and the effects of American foreign policy on those nations we deem ourselves to be helpers of. … [the plays] deal with their issues in complex, thought-provoking, fair, and difficult ways. They are mature and ask for discussion, delving into the depths of their implications and repercussions. None of them are point-blank, simple, blanketed statements. They are sympathetic to all parties involved, neither bearing ideology nor dogmatism.”

Bethany College Theatre will present The Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East as a staged reading on Monday, April 15, at 7:00 p.m. in Bud Pearson Swedish Chapel in the J. E. and L. E. Mabee Welcome Center. A talkback session will be held following the performance.