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The Internationalist

By Anne Washburn at steppenwolf theatre

Directed by Erin Murray

At Steppenwolf Theatre’s Net Up Series

Why this awful play was mounted is the real mystery here?

The real mystery in Anne Washburn’s The Internationalist is why she wrote this vague and meaningless quirky comedy? Equally mysterious is why Erin Murray chose this mind-numbing work? Let me try to explain what this play is all about if that is possible. Lowell (Nicholas Harazin) is an American business man on a trip to an unnamed Eastern European country. He is met by a beautiful woman at the airport with whom he  ends up sleeping with. But when he finds out that Sara (Kelly O ‘Sullivan) is merely a file clerk at the company he is visiting, he quickly looses interest in her. That’s all I’m sure of here.

at steppenwolf theatre

We meet the folks at the nameless company as they spend much of the 85 minute talking a strange language (invented by the playwright). We never learn much about anything in this perplexing work. With so many unanswered questions and lack of basic information, The Internationalist is a very long one act play. Is this play about jet lag or is it an overused exercise in the limitations of language?  Who knows? The lack of hints are manifested by the decision to have all the Europeans speak perfect unaccented  English as they stitch from the gibberish they normally speak. I can only conclude that playwright Washburn was determined to not give any concentrate meaning to her work. This, at first, makes the show a mystery but as the endless scenes mount up, and nothing much or with any meaning happens, it dawns on us that we are being duped by Washburn. To deceive and manipulate any audience only leaves them feeling cheated out of their money and their time.

We want to empathize with the hard working cast but by the play’s ending, we realize that Washburn and director Erin Murray has wasted the considerable efforts of the cast. Too bad that the cast had to become a pawn in Washburn and Murray’s scheme. Why this play was mounted is the only real mystery?

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: June 1, 2013

For more info checkout The Internationalist page at

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