Playwright Catherine (pronounced Ka-treen) Filloux has built her dramatic reputation on giving voice to lost, overlooked souls.
In Lemkin’s House, Filloux presents the struggle of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish American lawyer whom she refers to as her “historical soulmate,” a man who coined the term “genocide” – as in “race-murder” – in the 1940s and risked all to have it recognized as an international crime. In The Beauty Inside, a Harvard-trained lawyer returns to her native Turkey to try and save the life of a 14-year-old ‘honor killing’ survivor.
Cambodia’s history of atrocity looms large in both Eyes of the Heart and The Silence of God. In the former, a newly arrived Cambodian immigrant suffering from psychosomatic blindness caused by witnessing the atrocities of the “killing fields,” helps her American eye doctor as much – if not more – to “see” as they come to share their lives with each other. In the title play, an American journalist travels to Cambodia to interview Pol Pot and learns too much about her own country’s complicity with the monstrous despot.
In the collection’s final play, Mary and Myra, Mary Todd Lincoln speaks from an insane asylum – a far cry from the White House – where she’s been shuttled off by her only surviving son. Lincoln’s friend, Myra Bradwell (reported by some to be the first woman lawyer in the U.S., although Arabella Mansfield apparently was granted permission to practice law in 1869, years before Bradwell was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1892) comes to her rescue to try and gain Lincoln’s freedom. Who has more sanity in that asylum is a question up for grabs …
This first, and overdue, compilation of Filloux’s signature plays hit earlier this year, offering a diverse mix of backgrounds and cultures contained within … and in her deft writing, characters who are silent no more.