POINTS OF ARRIVAL: A JEAN DONOVAN JOURNEY, Still Point Theatre Collective, Rhino in Winter festival, at Live Bait Theater. Jean Donovan’s story cries out to be told, and not just because her murder in 1980 at the hands of an El Salvadoran death squad says so much about that country’s repressive U.S.-backed military regime (though that’s a strong reason, too). Donovan was one of those rare talented, flawed people who committed herself so passionately to her work, as a Catholic missionary, that her story seems made for dramatic treatment.
At least it has that potential. Sadly, Paul Amandes has written an uneven play that sometimes crackles with intensity–as when Donovan confronts a cruel military leader–and sometimes lapses into the sort of preaching to the converted that’s given agitprop a bad name. Donovan herself is a full, complex character whose very contradictions–she’s at once altruistic and selfish, self-denying and alcoholic– make her fascinating. But Amandes also fills the play with flat, predictable characters whose speeches sound more like banana republic ruling-party communiques than real human conversation.
How much more moving a play–and successful a work of propaganda–this might have been if Amandes had been able to make Donovan’s story as real as the one he and Robert McClory told in Haunted by God: The Life of Dorothy Day three years ago. –Jack Helbig