Review: Honey Brown Eyes

Cruelty and mercy do battle in this drama set during the Bosnian War.

  • Photographs: Lia Chang

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    CAPTIVE AUDIENCE An armed Ballerini, right, menaces Cremin.

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Photographs: Lia Chang

honeybrownREV

CAPTIVE AUDIENCE An armed Ballerini, right, menaces Cremin.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

"A room full of things and nothing belongs to me," laments Jovanka (Kate Skinner), a quietly resilient Serbian grandmother cooking dinner in her Sarajevo apartment as the Bosnian War rages outside. She's complaining that her departed grandson recorded over her classical music tapes with American rock, but she's also voicing the precarious effect of war, even on those who still have a home. Playwright Stefanie Zadravec deploys a different kind of kitchen-sink drama, one that perceptively explores the psychologically crushing consequences of a war that, in Honey Brown Eyes, leaves two former friends on opposing sides.

The two parts of this Working Theater production, set in designer Laura Jellinek's pair of cramped Bosnian kitchens in 1992, are as opposite in quality as the warring factions are in ideology. The first act struggles to convey the menace of the encounter between Muslim woman Alma (Sue Cremin) and Serbian soldier Dragan (Edoardo Ballerini), who forces his way into her apartment and demands she turn over her daughter. Dragan soon realizes that Alma's the sister of his onetime bandmate, a woman he was smitten with years ago, and who now relies on American sitcoms to escape reality. The volume of their performances is as high as the laugh track emanating from the battery-operated television.

Subtler characterizations highlight the second act, in which Denis (Daniel Serafini-Sauli), Alma's brother, seeks refuge with Jovanka, and a bit of human contact helps them cope with pain and loss. Director Erica Schmidt doesn't have full control of this challenging production, but it's these tender moments, shadowed by desolation, that illustrate the full force of Zadravec's skill.

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Clurman Theatre. By Stefanie Zadravec. Dir. Erica Schmidt. With ensemble cast. 1hr 45mins. One intermission.