By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Feb 01, 2007 at 5:24 AM

Next Act Theater producing artistic director David Cecsarini wants his company's performances to provoke thought and discussion.

That's why he chose to present "Paradise," playwright Glyn O'Malley's take on a 17-year-old Palestinian girl's struggle to understand the meaning of her own individual existence amid the chaos of live near the West Bank.

"The play takes part of its story from a tragic bombing incident in 2002," Cecsarini said. "An 18-year old Palestinian girl killed herself and others in a public marketplace, including a teenage Israeli girl. I think the playwright is asking us to consider how an innocent, smart, kind-hearted young woman chooses to perform such a horrible deed."

The play centers on Palestinian teen Fatima, played by Leah Dutchin, who lives with her family in a refugee camp, and Sarah (Emily Trask), an American-Israeli teen who lives with her mother in a Jewish settlement in the Occupied Territories. The plot explores the conditions that put the two girls on a collision course.

"My main reason for producing this play--our mission, in fact--is to promote discussion of important social, cultural or political issues," Cecsarini said.

"Although this conflict has been on our news screens for decades, our understanding of the issues is rather limited. If there is ever to be peace in the Middle East, and in particular, Israel and Palestine, we need to know more. We need to talk about it."