Requiem Darfur a Dream: Miller?s play is a memorial?and a mystery.

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Winter Miller’s In Darfur is one of those plays that seems at least obliquely to chronicle its own creation, like Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations or Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife. In seeking to compress an unfathomable tragedy into a tellable story, Miller transfers her own pedagogical burden onto one of her three major characters: New York Times reporter Maryka (Rahaleh Nassri) has only days to turn up evidence of a genocide campaign backed by the Sudanese government before her editor reassigns her to a story with more established news value. “Are these good rebels or bad rebels?” Maryka’s editor wants to know, inquiring after the Sudan Liberation Movement. “They’re not great,” Maryka says. The difficulty of untangling the warring factions for Westerners hardens the Times’ reluctance. But Maryka has lucked into the ideal ambassador in Hawa, a teacher whose command of English gives her the ability to personalize the story for readers Maryka hopes will pressure their governments to act if she can get Darfur onto page one. Carlos (Lucas Beck), a frayed American doctor working in a camp for the displaced—Maryka and her editor quibble over whether to call them “refugees,” the sort of plausibility-building detail that bespeaks Miller’s background as a fact-checker for Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, whom she accompanied to Sudan in 2006—doesn’t buy that help will come, but he’s certain that the mounted Janjaweed will kill anyone they spot talking to a reporter. Only superhuman intervention could end the conflict, he says: “Bush appoints Oprah Special Envoy to Sudan, and she ends this in a heartbeat.” Here and there, Miller stumbles into having Maryka and Carlos verbalize the stakes (“I’m just trying to do my job! Which is to save lives!”), though Nassri and Beck are skilled enough to sell it. The conflict isn’t abstract—it’s a practical question whether tending to the raped and mutilated or exposing their attackers to the world is ultimately the more humane response. But as with her character, Erika Rose’s haunted-but-hopeful performance as Hawa is what makes Derek Goldman’s elegant, compelling production register as a story rather than a debate. Whether Rose is recalling reading Edith Wharton at university or mulling whether her unborn baby was sired by her husband or one of his murderers, she lets you straight into her heart. When Hawa allows Maryka to snap her photo, the house holds its breath as though the lens were a gun barrel. Minutes after the lights have gone down, she endures a beating at the hands of a policeman for the crime of adultery—a Kafkaesque fate, and a common one for rape victims in the region. Goldman makes you watch it for a lot longer than you’ll want to. Which seems, under the circumstances, appropriate.