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The tragedy of war — quite literally — in this play about Kosovo

for The Brooklyn Paper

It took a very real tragedy to get a group of actors to confront a ruthless world.

In this case, the killing was of the brother of a member of the international troupe Needcompany — a journalist whose slaying in Kosovo is the driving force behind “The Deer House,” opening Oct. 5 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“With his death, the war entered the company,” said Jan Lauwers, founder and artistic director of Needcompany. “It provided the starting point for a play about a group of theater-makers who are increasingly faced with the harsh reality of the world they travel around in.”

The immediacy of the tragic event gave Lauwers motivation to write the twofold piece, which is a mixture of fact and fairy tale.

The main story line, which takes place in a spare rehearsal space, is a tranche de vie of real events the company experienced. The other, set in a fairy-tale world in prehistoric Kosovo, focuses on a family of deer breeders that faces murder, anguish, and vengeance as a civil war closes in on them and a war photographer is forced to kill one of their own.

Underwear, rubber antlers, jumbo ears, group singing, bizarre primeval costumes, warped animal figurines, and nude bodies are all abundant as the two tales intertwine. Text, music, dance, and drama accompany these visuals to create a multilingual and multidisciplinary piece.

“The Deer House” is the third chapter in “Sad Face–Happy Face,” Needcompany’s theatrical trilogy on human nature. The overarching theme of the collection is mortal perseverance on a merciless planet. In 2004, Lauwers brought the first installment of the series, “Isabella’s Room,” to BAM’s Next Wave Festival. The death of Lauwers’s father was the inspiration for that play.

“The trilogy is an ode to humanity,” said Lauwers. “Wherever we live, we have one thing in common: we are survivors.”

“The Deer House” at BAM Harvey Theater [651 Fulton St. at Rockwell Place in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], Oct. 5, 7-9 at 7:30 pm. Tickets $25-$45. For info, visit

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