The Placer Performance Calendar

 

Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title She Has a Name
Organization FreeFall Stage
Date(s) of show May 2 - June 22, 2014
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review As I write this, human trafficking is at the top of the news: (1) "FBI rescues 168 children in sex trafficking crackdown," (2) "In growing US sex-trafficking business, majority of victims are American-born," and (3) "FBI's Sacramento office finds 9 child sex-trafficking victims in region." All this after seeing FreeFall Stage's production of She Has a Name the first U.S. community theatre production of Andrew Kooman's play. I saw this show on the last weekend of its 8-week run, and now FreeFall Stage is trying to raise the money to take it on tour throughout Northern California. Deservedly so. In introducing the show to the audience, FreeFall Stage President, Deanne Eldridge described it as "the most important" project she's been associated with in a lifetime in the theatre.

The plot is simple. A Cambodian girl of 15 is working in a brothel in Bangkok, Thailand. She is visited by an American investigator posing as a john, but who is secretly trying to build a case to put the brothel out of business and rescue this girl, identified only as "Number 18" (and presumably the other girls). He has to win her trust and persuade her to testify against her captors.

Although the audience may not have known the details of the plot at the beginning, everyone knew what this play was about, and the warnings of "viewer discretion advised" and "not recommended for those under 15" were sobering. One came to this production, not to be entertained, but to understand and feel the human dimensions of this social scourge.

And that feeling comes through a variety of dramatic devices. First, there are the three women playing "The Voices" a Greek chorus that comments on the action and serves as the tortured conscience of Number 18. Then there are the interactions between the American investigator and his wife (via Skype) and his local female boss. These interactions are full of angst and passion, and they reveal many unexpected consequences of human trafficking: no one is unscarred by it.

But the success of this show hangs on the quality of the acting, which is superb. Number 18 is played by Supatchaya Sunpanich, originally from Thailand and now a student at American River College. She played the many moods of her role convincingly, and the memory of her screams still makes my skin crawl. She demonstrated both the torment and the ambivalence of the victim when offered a way out of that torment. Chris Quandt, as the American investigator, had the most time on stage, and he had me with him all the way as he navigated his way through compassion, frustration, determination, self-doubt, despair, and many more emotions. One can't help but spot occasional weak acting in a community theatre production. Not so this one. Surely the actors' native talent was a factor, helped no doubt by their commitment to the seriousness of the subject matter.  And surely the effectiveness of the whole presentation was due in no small part to the skill of young director, Emma Eldridge.

There was no release from the discomfort inherent in this production. Heeding a warning by Deanna Eldridge at the beginning that we may not feel like applauding at the end, only a few of us did. And I hope actors and director took it as a symbol of respect for their work. Instead, most audience members interacted with the actors one-on-one and viewed the exhibits of the five anti-trafficking organizations that were "partners" in this production.

This show has closed, but you can track FreeFall Stage's plans for its tour on the company's website: www.freefallstage.com. And you can contribute to their Kickstarter campaign at this link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/758931939/she-has-a-name-on-tour.

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