“Honey Brown Eyes” by Stefanie Zadravec at Theater J

It makes no sense.  It is Bosnia in 1992.  There is a war going on.  The Serbs have invaded.  Christians are on one side; Muslims on the other.  Looking at the Bosnians, you can’t tell who is Christian or who is Muslim.  They look the same.  The talk the same.  They used to be friends.

The Serbs are kicking the Muslims out of Vishnegrad.  They are clearing apartment blocks and torching them.   It is unstated, but it appears that the men are directed one way (most likely to their death) and the women (including young girls) another way, where they are to sexually abused and tortured.  Alma’s apartment is entered by Dragon.  His job is to get her and her daughter out and into a van.  Alma says she has no daughter; Dragon does not believe her.  And that is when the fun starts.

But it turns out that, although not recognizing each other at first, Dragon and Alma are not strangers.  Dragon is a musician; so is Alma’s brother Denis, and they used to be in the same band.  Alma came often to hear them play; Dragon had a crush on her.  Alma is Moslem; Dragon is Christian.

Their relationship this one day in Vishengrad is uncomfortable, and complicated, and very tragic.

At the same time, Denis has deserted from the Moslem resistance; his infant son has been killed and his wife has hanged herself.  He takes refuge in an apartment in Sarajevo in the middle of a war zone.  The apartment belongs to an older woman, Jovanka, a Christian whose daughter and grandson have left her to die as they walk to Croatia, hopefully to catch a boat to Italy.  Denis has no idea what his sister is going through at this very instance, nor that his sister’s tormentor is his old band mate, Dragon.

You don’t learn much about the politics behind this war.  You just know that it shouldn’t be this way, but it is.

The play is very well written.  Its message comes across strongly.  But the stars of the evening are the actors – Alexander Strain as Dragon, Maia DeSanti as Alma, Joel Ruben Ganz as Denis and Barbara Rappaport as Jovanka.

This is a premiere performance of this new play.  My guess is that it has a good future in front of it.

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