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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Necessary Targets’ uses all-female cast to tell story of humanity


    The Arizona Repertory Theatre’s latest production, “Necessary Targets,” asks a lot of its cast and crew.

    To start, the play is set in a refugee camp in war-torn Bosnia, not a setting that usually draws crowds. The characters use heavy accents, which, if not done correctly, risk turning talk of cruelty into comedy. It revolves around a small, all-female cast trying to find words for war. The cast and crew meet each challenge head on, and the result is stunning.

    Eve Ensler’s “Necessary Targets” is the story of J.S., a high-maintenance middle-aged psychiatrist who partners with Melissa, a no-nonsense trauma counselor working on turning people’s war stories into a book. Between J.S. and Melissa, it’s a battle of who cares the most, who’s getting in the way and who’s right.

    Melissa (Erica Renee Smith) and J.S. (Georgia Harrison) play off each other well, their disagreements going beyond the words of the script and coming out in subtle body language. Harrison’s portrayal of J.S. is beautifully rendered and her understanding of character is beyond her years.

    It’s hard to imagine better casting, and every actor feels utterly necessary. As refugee Zlata (Michelle Luz) tells Melissa and J.S., “You don’t understand that this happened to us — to real people, we were just like you. … You want us to be different from you so you can convince yourselves it wouldn’t happen there where you are.”

    Ensler’s refugees are always reminding the audience they are real people. The characters created in “Targets” are so authentic in humor, detail and subtlety, they’ll break your heart when you least expect it.

    It isn’t just superb actors that make this play an unflinchingly wrought character study. The costuming is perfect. Each ensemble is subtly indicative of its wearer’s personality. In addition, the hard work that voice and dialect coach Marissa Garcia put in paid off. It is difficult to imagine the play having nearly the same depth without the actors’ flawless accents.

    In the show, Zlata especially gets under J.S.’ skin. But J.S. isn’t the only one who will be changed by Zlata. Luz’s fierce portrayal of the former doctor will linger with the audience long after the lights come up.

    While some may be nervous about “Targets” because of Ensler’s main claim to fame, “The Vagina Monologues,” they needn’t be. This play’s cast may be entirely female but its subject matter centers around people, not just women. It’s about humanity, it’s about homes and countries, it’s about cruelty, it’s about kindness. In the end, “Targets” is about real people. It’s about you and it’s about me.

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