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Arts and Entertainment

Hollywood Fringe Festival 2012: Women Wait for Love and Death in 'HanJo' and 'Left to Tell'

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Two stories tied together by a similar theme can nevertheless tell completely different tales, and such is the case with the double bill "HanJo/Left to Tell" put on by RedSoil Theater as their inaugural production.

The short plays, which are part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, are tied together by the notion of waiting: In the first, a young Japanese woman goes mad while hoping for a man she met once to return, and in the second, a girl on the brink of womanhood crumbles as she prays for her life during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

"HanJo" introduces us to Hanako (Suzannah Gratz), who has lost her career as a geisha and been taken in by a lonely, middle-aged female artist, Jitsuko (Jeanette Deutsch), after losing her mind while waiting for her one-time lover. But it turns out that both women are really just fleeing reality: Hanako by sinking deeper and deeper into a world of desperate fantasy, and Jitsuko by constantly running from her life's failures.

The play is poetic, but almost to its own detriment; the actors' emotions get entangled and stuck behind the cryptic words. "HanJo" succeeds more in telling its story through movement and abstract dance, depicting the extremes to which some people will go after deciding that reality is too much to bear.

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By contrast, "Left to Tell" fearlessly presents the raw and unmistakable emotions of a young woman and a series of men living in war-torn Rwanda. The play masterfully recreates a world of palpable horror, of what happens when regular peoples' lives are disrupted by the most extreme human conditions.

The play is told from the point of view of Immaculee (Ratidzo Mambo), a young woman full of life and hope who is reduced, over the course of just a few weeks, to a trembling, terrorized heap on the floor. Around her, the men she knows - played beautifully in turn by Bambajan Bamba and Adetokumboh M’Cormack - deteriorate either into killers, or saviors who are nevertheless gripped by terror.

“HanJo” may well leave you with a lot to think about, but “Left to Tell” will leave you trembling in your boots.