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Marko the Prince
Set in Sabor, a village on the border of Bosnia and Serbia, Marko the Prince focuses on the relationship between two young men — the Christian Serb Chicha Mitrovich (Aaron Lohr), and the Muslim, Omar Muljian (Matthew Schmidt). The fathers of both men have been slaughtered in the conflict. Chicha is determined to bring the murderer to justice. Omar, a mild-mannered teacher, is more resigned, until Vuk Vukovich (Hristo Hristov), the local police chief, doctors evidence to convince Omar that Chicha's father was his father's murderer.
It gets more complicated. Omar has a sister, Narin (Jelena Stupljanin), who has recently returned from law school and a bad love affair. She promptly falls in love with a Red Cross worker named Mike (Josh Clayton). Chicha has a girlfriend, Boyana (Lanna Joffrey), who has the misfortune of possessing both a heart condition and the love of Vuk, who will do any dastardly deed in order to get her away from Chicha.
That's not all. Mike is a first-generation American who has returned to Sabor to bury his mother in the village of her birth. On one hand, Bach seems to claim that the contested ownership of this tiny cemetery sets off the passions that split the community. On the other hand, she never fully develops this idea, nor does it really explain the sniper fire that punctuates the play's action or the enmity that preceded any questions about the cemetery.
But there's still more. It turns out Chicha's mother, Mila (Trezana Beverley), an old lady dressed in traditional black, harbors deep secrets that will illuminate old rivalries and cast a new light on cherished beliefs.
Finally, just in case any member of the audience doesn't get the epic quality of her tale, Bach supplies the play with a "Guslar" (Herman Petras), a kind of Serbian troubadour. The Guslar marries the story of Omar and Chicha with the Serbian epic poem, "Marko the Prince," which relates the exploits of the legendary hero who lived after the Ottomans conquered Serbia at the battle of Kosovo in 1389.
It's hard to imagine how much Arlin could have done to save this production. But surely she could have stopped Lohr from pounding his chest so many times that he seemed to be auditioning for the role of King Kong. And were all that yelling and screaming, and Beverley's extended scream toward the end of the play really necessary? It also might not have been a bad idea to make substantial cuts.
There were moments when one felt sympathy for actors struggling with such worn out lines as "I just did what I had to do, that's all." But at other times their histrionics ruined perfectly acceptable scenes.
Jovanka Bach, who died in January 2006 after a long battle with cancer, was obviously committed to the cause of peace in the Balkans. Her knowledge of her subject is indisputable. Unfortunately, neither commitment nor familiarity necessarily result in a good dramatic work.
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