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The Dig Review - Dark Secrets of the Heart

By Elaine L. Mura

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Playwright and actor Stacie Chaiken stars in this unusual and riveting one-woman play about genetics, archaeology, and how the past affects the present - and even the future. Chaiken began work on this piece in 2003, when she made her first trip to Israel and became intrigued by the findings of archaeologists who were digging everywhere in the country attempting to link DNA and history. What made the process even more challenging was that, rather than the soft tissue normally used when studying genes, geneticists were forced to trace DNA from mere bone fragments found in ancient sites.

Stacie Chaiken - Photo by Grettel Cortes

THE DIG tells the story of Sarah Jenkins (who changed her name to Sally after she left home), an American archaeologist who specializes in ancient DNA. Just after her mother’s death, Sally is summoned by the Israeli government to become part of a top secret project. Even though she is struggling with the death of her mother from cancer only days before - and dealing with her mother’s obvious disapproval of her isolated lifestyle - the offer is one which she cannot refuse. So off she goes to Israel - the land of equal-opportunity massacres over the millennia - where she is thrown into the company of rigid Jewish government coordinator David and Arab-Israeli scientist Rashid. The trio arrive in Jaffa and go deep through tunnels hidden underground until they are confronted with a room empty except for a huge stone sarcophagus - in the style of an Egyptian burial but not with the traditional mummy inside. The burial is easily at least 4,000 years old. Who can this be? And why is the burial such a secret?

 

Stacie Chaiken - Photo by Grettel Cortes

In her hotel suite, Sally encounters a mysterious gecko which has taken up residence - even though the luxury hotel is notoriously bug-free. Tradition has it that geckos are good luck and sought after - and so Sally and a hotel employee secretly feed the little bugger and nurture him (or is it her? - hard to tell with a lizard). This cold-blooded little reptile may be the key to Sally’s frozen heart. Especially after Sally follows Jewish tradition and names the minuscule gecko after her mother.

 

Stacie Chaiken - Photo by Grettel Cortes

Director Pamela Berlin helms a brilliant performance by Stacie Chaiken, who is onstage every moment in this solo production. Yael Pardess’s set design makes the most of the oddly shaped space, and Dmitry Kmelnitsky’s video and projection expand the small area into an arena. The entire production team does a creative job of simulating a dig deep in the earth. THE DIG is a little gem and will both enlighten and entertain audiences.

 

Stacie Chaiken and Latino Theater Company Artistic Director Jose Luis Valenzuela at the Talk-Back after the show - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

THE DIG runs through May 1, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. There is an extra performance on Monday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m. and no performances on April 14, 22, or 23. Tickets are $30 (premium seating $35 and students/seniors/veterans $22). For reservations, call 866-811-4111 or go online at www.thelatc.org.

 

Published on Apr 10, 2016

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