Review: In ‘The International,’ Those Who Treat a Massacre as Entertainment

Review: In ‘The International,’ Those Who Treat a Massacre as Entertainment

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She never says Bosnia, never says massacre, never tells us the year the soldiers came to her village on her neighbors’ wedding day. Irene (Carey Van Driest), the woman at the center of Tim Ruddy’s “The International,” begins her story by savoring joy: memories of the life she and her family had before that brutal interruption.

The slaughter of thousands of Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces in the town of Srebrenica, 20 years ago this month, was a catalyst for the play, though the setting of its war is never specified. Directed by Christopher Randolph, this drama is a skillfully acted set of three interwoven monologues, two of them spoken by men who are, if not exactly villains, certainly far short of heroic.

One is Dave (Ted Schneider), a Los Angeles layabout with the half-focused gaze of a habitual drunk, who hopes to profit from the bloodshed he finds so riveting on CNN. The other is Hans (Timothy Carter), a bungling, low-level Dutch peacekeeper sent to the region, where his path crosses with Irene’s.

“Well before our arrival, there had already been the most unspeakable carnage: genocide, torture, rape and murder on a grand scale,” he says. Yet the country itself was breathtaking. “It was almost disturbing how beautiful it was. Hills and valleys teeming with all sorts of color, sloping farmland, little red-roofed houses.”

To Irene, this is home. She speaks from the inside about everyday life uprooted, her whole village and its generations of families made victims of someone else’s violence.

To Dave, this is no more than entertainment — a contest worth betting on with his visiting relatives. If the bad guys win, so will Dave, and then he and his wife will have the money to take their little girl to Disneyland.

This is where Mr. Ruddy, an actor and director turned playwright, throws “The International” badly off balance. Presented by the Urbanite Theater, this finely tuned Origin Theater Company production has a talented cast that lends suppleness to the text, but there is no moral complexity to mine in Dave, and none apparent in his family, either.

Every one of these Americans, except the 4-year-old, is ugly and selfish, utterly lacking in empathy. That’s too broad an aim at too easy a target.

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