Some months ago, I saw a play that will remain nameless. It dealt with profound, emotional subject matter – sexual slavery during wartime. It was intense and graphic and disturbing. The writing was uneven, flowery and artificial in some parts and exposition-heavy in others. The directorial treatment wavered between mawkish symbolism and misery porn, lavishing attention on women's tortured bodies. And this story, meant to be about women, somehow managed to give more time to the voices of men – the women's abusers and loved ones. It was a disappointing evening. Maybe it just can't be done, I thought to myself. Maybe this kind of story is so powerful, so disturbing, that it just can't be made into good theatre.
The subject matter is the same; Lela & Co. is a play about sex trafficking. It tells a harrowing story and it doesn't sugarcoat the realities of war. But it is so much more than that. It's the story of Lela, her childhood, her struggle, her resistance and resilience. It's a story of war, those who suffer, those who profit, and those who try to help. It's a production that educates, yes, but never at the expense of character. Most of all, it proves that in the hands of skilled writers, performers, and crew, even a story as painful as this one can be a thing of beauty.Read More