Theater review: 'Fallaci'
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 03:03
Fidel Castro. Dalai Lama. Henry Kissinger. Golda Meir. Ayatollah Khomeini: seemingly a group who have nothing in common; excepting one thing: they were all interviewed by Oriana Fallaci.
Berkeley Repertory Theatre gives us an up-close and very personal look into her literary, journalistic and emotional makeup over a period of nearly half a century interviewing famous people, writing books and becoming a personality nearly as big as the people she interviewed. What separated Fallaci from her colleagues was her ability to examine the hearts of her subjects in search of deeper meanings and hidden truths.
Concetta Tomei does a remarkable job of bringing all of Fallaci's nuances and bombast to the role of Fallaci. Her sarcastic tone of voice (with pitch-perfect Italian accent) built a wall between Fallaci and the rest of the world that few would dare to cross. Marjan Neshat is the woman sent to interview Fallaci for her obituary and gives Tomei a run for her money in the scaling-the-walls department
Scriptwriter Lawrence Wright found a way to critically assess Fallaci's life story and used a similar technique in uncovering the truth of his subject. Like Fallaci, he used subjectivity of his subject rather than objectivity to tease out the many meanings of such a complicated life history. Fallaci used the same method during her interviews and said, "You can never be objective when interviewing. Only subjectivity will bring out the contradictions and the inexplicable mysteries".
Whether reporting from a war zone in the Middle East or Vietnam, Fallaci repeatedly thrust herself into the very vortex of human history.She was shot three times and dragged by her hair in the middle of an uprising in Mexico showing her wanton disregard for her own safety. Combining her unquenchable passion with a disarming intelligence and beauty, Fallaci became a darling of the left and one of the first rock stars of modern journalism.
But for all the shocks she gave the world, perhaps the biggest came towards the end of her life when she wrote several inflammatory books severely criticizing Islam. The viciousness of her attacks left her vulnerable to charges of racism and hate mongering. Suddenly, Oriana Fallaci was being linked to Ayn Rand! Many questions about her were raised: why had she spoken out so dramatically? What motivated her and, especially, who WAS she really?
It was these questions that intrigued scriptwriter Wright to delve into her story and find a way to portray it on stage so he decided to use fiction. Armed with a tremendous amount of hard information about Fallaci, he set about inventing a dramatic situation that would get underneath the facts. By guiding us into the imaginary recesses and crevices of her persona, Wright gives us a look into the huge contradictions that shaped Fallaci and which link her to our collective history.
"Fallaci" will be at Berkeley Repertory Theatre through April 21, 2013. Tickets at berekleyrep.org or call (510) 647 2949.