×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Nine Parts of Desire

America's involvement in Iraq has been painted in a harshly negative light by "Stuff Happens," "Embedded" and "What I Heard About Iraq," and the U.S. doesn't fare any better in Heather Raffo's one-woman drama spotlighting nine women fighting to cope with their agonizing Iraqi legacy. .

With:
With: Heather Raffo.

America’s involvement in Iraq has been painted in a harshly negative light by David Hares’ “Stuff Happens,” Tim Robbins’ “Embedded” and Simon Levy’s “What I Heard About Iraq,” and the U.S. doesn’t fare any better in Heather Raffo’s one-woman drama spotlighting nine women fighting to cope with their agonizing Iraqi legacy. The difference here is that Saddam Hussein draws more emphasis than President Bush, and the Iraqi point of view offers insights not emphasized by American newspapers and TV.

Raffo, daughter of an American mother and Iraqi father, spent 10 years interviewing Iraqi women from various strata of society, and the result is noteworthy as a historical document. The production, however, is overlong and would have broader appeal if events were clarified.

Antje Ellermann’s set — with its boarded-up windows, chunks of cracked concrete, stacked sandbags and overall projection of destruction — creates an air of hopelessness, along with Obadiah Eaves’ rumbling sound effects and appropriately melancholy music. Raffo’s first character, Mulaya, a woman hired to lead call and response with women mourning at funerals, emerges as a poignant, pitiable figure.

Another protagonist, Layal, the show’s most fascinating personality, admits, “I fear it here and I love it here,” and defines herself this way: “I’m a good artist, I’m an OK mother, I’m a miserable wife.” She’s also a curator of the Saddam Art Center, a favorite of Saddam’s regime and sexual victim of Saddam’s sons, who think nothing of pouring honey over a discarded mistress and feeding her to Dobermans.

Hooda, a heavy smoker and whiskey drinker living in London, reveals that Saddam beheaded 70 women for being prostitutes, and a monstrous portrait of him begins to build. Stories about Saddam, and the graphic horrors he inflicted on the people, are more absorbing than many of the script’s personal romantic anecdotes.

Ghastly details are voiced by a doctor who discusses genetic damage that has resulted in babies born with two heads or none at all. “Maybe it’s depleted uranium,” she speculates, “maybe it’s the chemicals that were released when we were bombed during the Gulf War, but something happened to the environment.” Raffo is strikingly effective in this role.

Another tale, from Umm Gheda (“a woman of great stillness and pride”), empathetically directed by Joanna Settle, describes an American bombing of an Amiriya bomb shelter on Feb. 13, 1991. The huge room became an oven, bombs burst the pipes and boiled the people, and over 400 were killed.

The play’s theme is most eloquently dramatized by Hooda, when she explains that Saddam “should have been gone during the first Gulf War.” His own troops were defecting, and the population expected America to help after their rebellion, but the U.S. turned its back, allowing the dictator to execute his own people.

Differentiation among nine characters — which include a 38- year-old Bedouin woman, an American and an Iraqi girl who loves ‘N Sync — isn’t as clear as it could be, and Raffo’s unrelentingly impassioned portrayal can grow exhausting. Some modulation and subtlety would give the audience room to respond more fully.

Nine Parts of Desire

Geffen Playhouse/Brentwood Theater; 498 seats; $64 top

Production: A Geffen Playhouse presentation of a play in one act by Heather Raffo. Directed by Joanna Settle.

Crew: Sets, Antje Ellermann; costumes, Kasia Walicka Maimone; lighting, Peter West; original music and sound, Obadiah Eaves. Opened, reviewed Sept. 14, 2005; runs through Oct. 16. Running time: 1 HOUR, 15 MIN.

Cast: With: Heather Raffo.

More Scene

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. “We’re kind of going back to more of a thematic element. I have some close [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. “The images and stories recognized [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. “I’ve seen more smiley symbolism lately, and I’ve [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. Jeong said, when he was a guest on “The View,” Goldberg told him [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. For those who haven’t caught on to the “Schitt’s Creek” [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. “When I moved to LA, the air was unbreathable. Rivers were catching fire in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content