The stage for Journeys is simple to make the women’s voices seem louder– seven women who recount their struggles for human rights in seven different countries.
The original activists’ stories are told by playwrights and presented by actresses — at first that’s a disappointment, one’s looking for authenticity, but would we want the “real” women — engaged in their ongoing struggles — to drop by East 4th Street in NYC for our benefit? Let them do their work! The plays are uneven and the best are those told as if in the voice of the women actually involved in the struggle. What was it like to try to eliminate domestic violence in Russia, and how on earth does one ever come to take on such a task? Here’s what and here’s how!
The most beautifully written is Susan Yankowitz’ play about Mukhtaran Mai, an illiterate Pakistani (“I didn’t know we had a constitution”) who after a gang rape ordered by local officials in retribution for no crime she’d committed stood up for herself in court. Moving through a judicial system illiterate (signing blank documents with a thumb print), she nevertheless obtained a settlement of $8,000 with which she set about building schools in the face of continued opposition–Musharaff said women are getting raped now just to become millionaires, according to the play. The moment when toward the end the marvelous actress, Reena Shah*, tells us she’s going to one of the schools she herself built –“I’m in fifth grade now,” is worth all.
Journeys is at La Mama, in the East Village in NYC, 74A East 4th Street
Next week: Brecht’s Galileo at Classic Stage.