The following is a somewhat abbreviated version of a New York Magazine review of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.” Rachel Corrie’s story is a tragedy. She was a well-meaning naif who perished in what I fervently hope was an accident, as she sought to protect a house being bulldozed along the Egyptian-Gaza border to counter the tunneling of arms and explosives. Note the surprising revelation in the final paragraph below:
Stand and Don’t Deliver: After all the drama around ‘My Name Is Rachel Corrie’, what are we to make of the actual play? By Jeremy McCarter
On March 16, 2003, Corrie died horribly beneath an Israeli bulldozer, and her appropriation began. Yasser Arafat seized upon her as a martyr, and the Israeli right denounced her and the International Solidarity Movement. But Corrie had left behind some eloquent diaries and e-mails, from which actor-director Alan Rickman and Guardian editor Katharine Viner decided to fashion a script….
Corrie’s death was important, and the subject is excruciatingly important, but the play is not important. It’s a well-meaning wisp.
As Corrie describes her girlhood in Washington State, she shows a sharp eye and a flair for language. (“He pronounces his words like rubber bands stretched and snapping,” she says of a boy she likes.) Once in Gaza, she’s astute to worry about a generation of children who will grow up knowing only this violence, and she flashes a blistering eloquence in a climactic speech (forcefully delivered by Megan Dodds) in which she vents her “disbelief and horror” at the carnage.
But the play develops no cumulative power. For all the gravity of the material, her observations feel curiously weightless, offering no sense of why these bad things are happening all around her. In fact, the play is so thin that anybody who might have told Nicola not to proceed because of its politics seems misguided. For the love of John Stuart Mill, are these journal entries really damning enough to merit suppression? The e-mails of a young outsider who says “I’m really new to talking about Israel-Palestine” don’t seem terribly hard to refute, if you’re so inclined.
Corrie’s diaries are more valuable in describing a budding idealist’s growth than in bearing witness to the world’s knottiest conflict. Even here, though, unlovely notes intrude. More than once, Corrie takes an oddly detached view of Palestinian violence, doubting that it could have “any impact” on the Israelis—a surprisingly clinical tone for such a sensitive advocate of social justice, as if it’s the body count incurred in a bus bombing that matters. I didn’t pick the example at random. While Corrie was in Gaza, a suicide bomber destroyed a bus in Haifa, killing fifteen people—mainly children—including an American girl even younger than Corrie, one involved in a program to reconcile Arab and Jewish students. There’s something poignant in the ways these two sad stories parallel each other and diverge. I can even imagine a drama using their deaths to tell us something new about the conflict, or help us better understand its whole horrible complexity. This play doesn’t.