by Lisa Panzer

Susan Mattson, Erin Carr, Cathy Gibbons Mostek, Cindy Nagle Walton, Dani Kennedy (hidden from view), and Jennifer Vick in a scene fromMN Players' production of Eve Ensler's NECESSARY TARGETS, running in Swarthmore, PA through Feb. 4.

After seeing the immensely moving opening night performance of Eve Ensler’s NECESSARY TARGETS at MN Players, an audience member remarked that it was not the kind of show you “like”, though the “perfomance was excellent” (Yes, it was!).  The play’s subject matter is indeed heavy, sobering, unsettling; it intends to disturb, to instigate, and compel change. The story stems from the playwright’s experiences in interviewing female victims of war violence across multiple countries.

Eve Ensler, award-winnng author of the VAGINA MONOLOGUES and avid activist, pairs up two seemingly mismatched women, J.S. (smartly portrayed by Cathy Gibbons Mostek) a well established, well dressed uptown psychiatrist, and Melissa (energetically acted by Jennifer Vick), an enterprising young writer/trauma counselor, to travel to Bosnia to heal war ravaged women refugees via therapy and eliciting their “war stories”.  Once there, they live with the women in the not so sanitary refugee camp, J.S. still wearing pearls, heels and a dress.  Zlata (outstanding performance by Cindy Nagle Walton), a practicing physician before the war, now reduced to a refugee, disdains Melissa’s attempts at recording the women’s horrors (“There she goes, story vulture”).  J.S.’s attempts at drawing the women out are met with comments such as Nuna’s (delightfully done by Erin Carr) “So this is American therapy.”, followed by Azra’s (adorably well acted by Dani Kennedy) “It just feels like another terrible day to me.”  Melissa explains to a frustrated J.S.,  “These women need an outlet for their rage and despair. We are necessary targets.”

There were moments of well placed comic relief, most of which project from the antics and interaction of Jelena (enjoyable portrayal by Susan Mattson) and Azra, though underlying the humor lay the sadness of the war’s fallout still raining upon women.  A most poignant and moving performance came through the character of Seada (Elizabeth Hall), whose raw, horrific experiences, once exposed, form the final catalyst for change in J.S.;  The American doctor who came to help heal the war torn women, through these same women, can now herself begin to heal.

Instead of “acts” the show has multiple “scenes” and therefore the challenge of many scene changes, which were well executed by the cast and crew. The set, which represented a refugee camp, was elaborately constructed out of pallet formations; worthy of its own applause (Timothy P. Oskin).  My lovely aunt, who was very touched by the play and the performances, also enjoyed the music, which was well selected and utilized, along with the lighting, to good affect.  The cigarette smoke in the show was distracting, and did not add much to the play.

Overall, NECESSARY TARGETS, as directed by Thomas-Robert Irvin, is a compelling work with a provocative purpose, featuring an abundance of talent.   Be provoked, be moved, be there.

NOTE: Some content may not be suitable for young audiences.

by Eve Ensler
Directed by Thomas-Robert Irvin
January 20 – February 4
Swarthmore United Methodist Church
129 Park Lane
Swarthmore, PA 19081

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