Eliza Wyatt's play ''Flowers of Red" was inspired by real-life violence in the Gaza Strip and the 2003 death of American peace activist Rachel Corrie. The events and emotions portrayed remain hot issues today.
The good news from the Boston Theatrics production at Boston Playwrights' Theatre is that Krista D'Agostino makes an outstanding professional debut as Samia, a woman in Gaza who is visited by a young American woman protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes. The bad news is that Caryn Andrea Lindsey miscalculates her role as Roberta, the US peace activist, resulting in a disjointed performance that rattles the characters' fragile relationship.
''Flowers of Red" captures a two-day conversation between Samia and Roberta -- the kind of sensitive communication that occurs when stakes are extremely high. Each a risk-taker in her own right -- Roberta by leaving her home and Samia by staying put -- the two women discuss intense personal and political matters and, in doing so, strive to connect at a very dangerous time.
D'Agostino infuses Samia with mesmerizing, almost tragic rhythm as Samia tries to be a hostess despite her dire circumstances. She welcomes her American visitor even as she is confused about her purpose. D'Agostino makes the most of the play's simple structure. With each story that Samia shares, D'Agostino delves deeper into the mix of hurt, history, and frail hope in the region.
In response, Lindsey fires off her lines with officious, even indifferent energy. And when Roberta is supposed to be frightened, Lindsey opts for self-centered mania, which destroys any believable link between the two women. They do not appear to be potential companions, despite all the script's attempts to make them so. Director Marco Zarattini should have smoothed this mismatch.
Always nearby is Jim (Jonathon Myers), a man of undetermined loyalties, who is also working in the Gaza Strip. Armed with only his satellite phone, Jim protects the local well and delivers fresh water to homes in the area each day. Myers makes a respectable if peculiar Jim, who is really more of a plot mechanism than an engaging character.
The play is performed without intermission, but even in this trim format it contains unnecessary hiccups. The character of Roberta suffers from a shallow back story as well as unresolved stomach pains, misdirected flirtations, and cliche-laden phone conversations with parents. The overall pace is steady, even gentle, until two crises are crammed together at an abrupt end. It's one thing to have a shocking denouement, something entirely different to have a rushed one.
Zarattini also designed the simple, appropriately barren set, in which a series of intersecting walls form Samia's house. Again, it's D'Agostino who makes even faux stone walls seem authentic. Her character busies herself with domestic activities that would be fruitless if they weren't so intently pursued. As Samia washes linens with dirty water and cuts bandage strips from an old sheet -- as if that will aid those shot down by military guards -- D'Agostino conveys dignified desperation. Hers is an impressive performance, but one that is unable to transcend the shortcomings in an otherwise timely production.