The Body of a Woman as a Battlefield in the Bosnian War by Matei Visniec played at the New Stage Performance Space as part of the Madness, Society & History Theatre Festival. Produced by Noémi Sarog, this is the first ever production performed in New York. The play revolves around two traumatized women recovering from past experiences. In a NATO convalescent house in Germany, a psychologist, Kate (Natalie Neckyfarow), attends to her patient Dorra (Noémi Sarog) who is recovering from traumatic neurosis after having been raped.
"The blunt nature of the material creates a shocking environment, yet consistently allows the show to display brutal honesty."
The play tackled tough themes—sexual trauma, war, nationalism- that left the audience rigid. Neckyfarrow and Sarog began with difficulty, struggling for lines and reciting their respective soliloquies. As soon as their dialogue launched, their chemistry began to shine. Both characters breathe life, striving to help the other, ironically trumping their own goals along the way. Their performance was especially strong in the illustration of their codependence during several of Dorra’s bipolar episodes. In one scene Sarog and Neckyfarrow embrace, holding back tears as Sarog snaps. She really captures a human being brought to the brink of her sanity trying make sense of the horrific acts of violence committed against her. The blunt nature of the material creates a shocking environment, yet consistently allows the show to display brutal honesty. In another memorable scene the two discussed the pros and cons of several European nationalities over some drinks, insisting that each nationality had a “but” statement (e.g. They’re great but…). Dorra would voice her distaste for most other cultures, but the same extreme mentality incited her own rape at the hands of two xenophobia-driven nationalists. The scene had a gentler tone to give the story a bit of comedic relief which exposed Dorra’s hypocrisy in her own nationalistic beliefs. Both actresses performed this beautifully, opening up in the midst of a difficult recovery. The show bounced around from this tough and gentle duality, throwing you back and forth between both characters throughout their journey.
Both actresses faced some road blocks in bringing these characters to life. Some scenes were frightening and unforgettable, others flat and uncomfortable due to extended beats and pauses. Noémi’s direction used the space efficiently. Two rectangular columns cut the edges of the space: the set feels cramped. The actors maneuvered the set with confidence, transitioning between different scenes by relocating set pieces. This moving piece of theater started at a slow pace. However, it became shocking and exciting once the show picked up, and ultimately told a beautiful story about self-acceptance.
The Body of a Woman as a Battlefield played at the New Stage Performance Space Sept 8, 13, and 15-16 as part of the Madness, Society & History Theatre Festival. If you would like to see more of them, you can see Noémi and Natalie’s upcoming productions below:
Big Love by Charles Mee
Directed by Estefania Fadul
Performances: Oct. 3- Oct. 6 (7:30pm on weekdays and 2pm & 7:30pm on Saturday)
The Visit by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Directed by Taylor Reynolds
Performances: Oct.31- Nov. 3 (7:30pm on weekdays and 2pm & 7:30pm on Saturday)
Venue: Atlantic Stage 2 (330 W 16th Street, New York, NY /ACE line: 14th Street Stop)