The Washington-Sarajevo Talks, Victory Gardens Studio Theater. In this play, D.C.-based playwright and civil rights worker Carla Seaquist dramatizes the extraordinary long-distance phone friendship she struck up with Bosnian radio journalist Vlado Azinovic. Refusing to cheapen or adorn the tragedy of Sarajevo with such traditional theatrical components as plot, dramatic conflict, and character development, she simply presents transcripts of her conversations with Azinovic, assuming that his grave situation and their unique relationship will suffice to educate and move her audience.

And Azinovic, who risks everything to protect his home and radio station, does appear admirable. But Seaquist’s drama more closely resembles a grant proposal or sanctimonious NPR broadcast than a play. Neither she nor Azinovic emerges as a full-blown character, and what little we do learn of Seaquist through her platitudinous queries (“Why can’t we all get along?”) and her exhortations to Azinovic to “Keep going, Vlado” smacks of naivete, self-aggrandizement, bias, and intellectual tourism. Disturbingly, she tells Azinovic, “You’re not just a refugee–you’re so much more.” She labels people from rural areas “peasants” and “primitive” and even enthuses to Azinovic during the shelling that she’s writing a play about their calls and he’ll receive “half the proceeds.” I should hope so.

Seaquist intends to humanize the horrors of Bosnia and give them immediacy, but by depicting herself and Azinovic as saintly archetypes–high-minded do-gooder and charming hero–she sacrifices any depth. This Victory Gardens world premiere comes off as little more than monotonous good intentions.

–Adam Langer