…FOR YOU WERE A STRANGER…, at HotHouse. As part of the ninth Big Goddess Pow Wow, Donna Blue Lachman presented a monologue about her experiences studying voodoo in Haiti. Blithely asserting the right to appropriate black culture, she described her teacher in stereotypical terms and generally revealed herself to be so innocent of her own colonialism that she hardly seemed accountable for it.
The same naivete characterizes her two-woman show, written and performed with Palestinian-American Rula Sirhan Gardenier, about historical links between Arabs and Jews. At some point, though, innocence stops being an excuse–especially as the piece was in development for almost four years. The fact that Jews and Arabs share Father Abraham isn’t relevant to today’s conflicts, so the first scene (between Sarah and Hagar) and the second (Jew and Muslim united against the Inquisition) do nothing to illuminate the third (dispute between Holocaust survivor and displaced Palestinian). Nothing, that is, but underline Lachman’s condescension to the Other–it’s emblematic of the entire show when her character says to her ostensibly equal friend, “I dreamed you were my slave.” Gardenier’s tart response is well deserved: “Your favorite dream.” Speeches convey the antagonists’ common feeling of dispossession but not context enough to suggest how that commonality might produce peace.
Lachman still doesn’t seem to understand that Israel’s tree-planting, valiant-pioneer narrative sounds to the Arabs like just one more example of Western colonialism. And if she hasn’t gotten that far, she really has nothing to contribute.