"Tesla's Letters" is heartfelt and original
January 16, 2001

If you read my interview with playwright Jeffrey Stanley, you will be familiar with the plot of "Tesla's Letters," inspired by Stanley's own experiences in Yugoslavia. The play's protagonist is a brash American graduate student named Daisy Archer,
who goes searching for information about Nikola Tesla in a Belgrade museum.

Daisy finds that the museum curator, Dragan Milincevic, is not inclined to help her with her research. To gain his trust, she must endure a quiz about the country and its complicated history, as well as questions about Nikola Tesla, the eccentric inventor whose enigmatic life has brought her to this place.

The question and answer segment, in the wrong hands, could be dry and boring, but Richard Elmore (Dragan) and Janelle Schremmer (Daisy) transform the serve and volley into a subtle dance of seduction. But seduction is not what Dragan has
 in mind. He wants Daisy to commit to her quest, so he requires that she venture into Croatia, a dangerous enterprise in a war-torn nation.

In Croatia, Daisy meets a young man named Zoran who offers to guide her. A strange sort of romance ensues as they observe the destruction that civil war between Serbs and Croats has brought to Yugoslavia.

Although the play does impart a message and is told against a background of dramatic events, it has a certain wry humor, present in the dialogue, the droll comments of Dragan, and the flirtatiousness of Zoran.

Daisy, on the other hand, is nearly humorless, but her intensity and arrogance play well as a foil. Amir Babayoff is particularly grand as Zoran.

The cast and crew do a fine job with Stanley's original and heartfelt play about the complexities of a people at war and the difficulties of trying to put their shared country back together.

"Tesla's Letters" is directed by Jere Hodgin with scene design by Jimmy Ray Ward and costumes by Marietta Green-Hamrick. One of Mill Mountain Theater's Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works.