Stagebeat

The Women's Theater Project makes Eve Ensler's Necessary Targets poignant and authentic. The audience sits on the stage, adding to the intimacy of this dramatic story about Park Avenue psychiatrist J.S. (Linda Bernhard) and an ambitious young writer, Melissa (Lela Elam), who go to Bosnia to hear the stories of women refugees from that war-torn country. The piece begins and ends sappy, but the middle is poignant, as each woman hesitantly recounts her personal tragedy about soldiers who killed, raped, and took everything the women loved. The minimalistic staging allows the characters to be the focus. Bernhard becomes believable toward the middle, leaving behind her social airs and digging into the meat of her role. Elam, in contrast, stays consistently staged throughout, never allowing her character to have any nuance. The rest of the cast is superb, creating vivid and believable characters with unshakable focus and authenticity. Even their accents do not seem to fluctuate. No one necessarily stands out, although Seada (Jacqueline Laggy) has the most challenging role. When her clingy character breaks through her charade, the moment is heart-breaking. But each has her own defense mechanism to hide inner pain, including J.S., whose professionalism dissolves to reveal secrets. Zlata (Kathy Ryan-Fores) hides anger and caring behind defiance. The bubbling curiosity and pop culture analogies of Nuna (Meredith Lasher) mask her self-contempt as a mixed-blood in a time of ethnic cleansing. Jelena (Lacy Carter) runs about promoting sex and alcohol to escape a world that has taken away her husband's love and sanity. Azra (Elayne Wilks) creates a makeshift grave to die in, crying over her lost cow Blossom, making her loss seem just as real as the last kiss of a first love. For unwavering character development and touching authenticity -- bravo. (Through August 29 at Lehman Theater, Miami-Dade College North, Bldg. 5, Miami, 305-327-1438.) -- Rachel Galvin
 
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