Theater Bielefeld (Die Kommission), Bielefeld, Germany, 2008/2009
The New York International Fringe Festival, New York City, 2007


The Commission was written in 1996 in response to reports of atrocities and mass rape being committed in the former Yugoslavia. Set in an unnamed foreign land, the drama takes an unflinching look at the minefields of the bedroom as well as the fragments, both personal and political, left behind in the wake of a bloody civil war. The story spins backward in time to reveal the interlocking lives of a young soldier named Ivan; Tulia, the fiancée he leaves behind; Paula, an American expatriate professor; and her lover Karl, a war crimes investigator with a hidden past. The Commission was presented as part of the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival.

2007 New York International Fringe Festival Reviews

The Commission

Aug 12, 2007 | reviewed by Robert Attenweiler

If you’re familiar with writer Steven Fechter’s play-turned-movie The Woodsman, about a pedophile’s release from prison, chances are you have a good handle on what sticks in his craw: sexuality, violence, and issues of power. His new play, The Commission, having its world premiere mounted by Dreamscape Theater Company as part of the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival, finds all of those issues still strongly on Fechter’s mind and finds its audience still unable to look away from all the horror he brings to the stage.

The Commission takes place in an unnamed foreign country, recently done with a civil war. The scenes move backward in time and we see how tightly connected this seemingly disparate group of characters really are. The play is about relationships, as much as anything, and it hinges on the story of Ivan (Zack Calhoon), a young soldier, and his love Tulia; and the affair between Karl, an investigator for the War Crimes Commission (hence, The Commission), and the American ex-pat, Paula. People do horrible things during times of war and Fechter zeroes in on sexual atrocities and the way the perpetrator’s guilt can linger, poisoning his life well after the crime was committed.

Written/created by: Steven Fechter
Directed by Sarah Gurfield
Presented by Dreamscape Theatre

Show Showdown

August 11, 2007 | Three guys racing each other to blog the most shows in 2007.

This absorbing new play at the Fringe Festival by Steven Fechter (The Woodsman) caught me by surprise: after the first scene I was sure I knew where it was going (political intrigue) and then it went somewhere else (sexual warfare) and then somewhere else again. That’s not to say that the 95 minute one-act is aimless; to the contrary, it’s sharp and lean and purposeful as the scenes play out in reverse chronological order. (I feel like a spoilsport to reveal the play’s structure, but it’s the most benign thing I can give away to indicate the drama’s rigor and intelligence.) Set in an unnamed country (Yugoslavia?) during and after a brutal civil war in which many civilian women were raped and murdered, the play begins with what seems like the chance meeting between two women: an American who is entangled extramaritally with a prosecutor of war crimes, and a young student who fears that her fiance, a soldier, is dead. The violence that we see on stage is mostly of the interpersonal kind, including an extended nude scene between the older couple that is harrowing in its frank depiction of warm intimacy turning cruel. Apart from the complaint that one of the actors is not up to the same level as the rest of the ensemble, this is a highly recommended production of a striking new play that is sure to linger in the memory of anyone who sees it. Most definitely a potential best-of-Fringe pick.

Posted by Patrick Lee