REVIEW BY RANNIE I. McCANTS
Beth Newberry, writer and director of the new play Undone, is a woman on a mission. With a powerful piece that pushes boundaries of both theater and society, she exposes the trauma of Anna—a former sex slave—and how she copes with it. The audience watches Anna as she tries to rebuild her life as an author and a hairdresser, although still painstakingly entangled in her past.
Her story starts as a young girl from a poor family who falls in love with an older man. He buys her things she wouldn’t otherwise have, becomes close to her family, and manipulates her into fall in love with him. If only she knew he was grooming her for a life in the sex trade.
Anna, portrayed by the fearless Jessie Fahay, recounts her first exploitative experience with vivid detail; commenting on how she still remembers the stench of body odor, the searing pain inflicted on her body, and how vulnerable she felt.
This perpetual vulnerability is what carries through the entire piece. While watching, I immediately related this aspect of the play to Brené Brown’s speech, “The Power of Vulnerability.” Brené concludes that being open to vulnerability is accessing it’s power, which then leads to love, strength, courage, and so forth. Anna was a vulnerable and impressionable girl when she was convinced to run off with this older man. It was this vulnerability that allowed Anna to access that love for someone even after they’d betrayed her trust and sold her childhood innocence. She says after that first experience she “[felt] sorry for him” because he’d never known love.
And it’s when Anna allows herself to love again that she realizes and accepts her own strength. Jessie’s moving performance gave voice to all the women who might not be able to show their faces or lend their voices to stop sex slavery from happening. Over 12 million people are currently working in the sex trade and it is said that we have more slaves now than the time of American slavery. Beth uses Anna’s story to compile the real life stories of three women who’d spent time as sex slaves. In a talkback afterward, Beth explains that women who come forward with their stories reveal that they still deal with trauma even if they go about with “normal” lives as wives and mothers. It is this trauma that cannot be undone, so through awareness and action, we must work tirelessly toward prevention.
Organizations that support the effort to stop sex trafficking: Safe Horizons, RestoreNYC, Coalition Against Trafficking Women, and GEMS. For more information, visit http://www.infusionarts.org.