Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eclipsed by nothing

Performance: Elipsed
Theater: Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D St, NW
Metro: Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green. Directions here.
Genre: A story of the bonds of womanhood
Cost: from $15 for people under 25. $15 rush seats sold 2 hours before curtain. Also, Goldstar has $20 tickets
Dates: Through September 27
Rating: 5/5 Starving Artists

It’s your last week or so to see a world premiere show that is truly stunning. Sorry I am late getting on this review, but if you are looking for something to do this weekend, I highly recommend checking out the latest triumph at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. You won’t regret it.

Eclipsed is the story of five women surviving the second Liberian Civil War. More than anything, it is about the bonds between women; the way they take care of themselves and each other. Each of these women create their own power, though they have different ways of doing it. Some seek power at the end of a gun, others by building relationships with the right men, and others through education or politics. None of these answers is more right than any other, they are just powerful reactions to the same problem: dealing with a feeling of being powerless in a world that is out of your control.

It would be difficult to identify any standout performances, because they were all fantastic. Each actor has an impressive mastery of the Liberian dialect (thanks to some excellent coaching by Tonya Beckman Ross). Woolly regular Jessica Frances Dukes (of Fever/Dream and Antebellum) is joined by the fantastic Uzo Aduba, Ayesha Ngaujah, Dawn Ursula, and Liz Femi Wilson. The ensemble is really incredible, and the play is worth it just to watch the way they work together.

This is not to say it was only the acting that was fabulous. The set really creates a captivating environment, where we can really feel the oppressive degradation that is the LURD Rebel army camp. We experience the squalor of these women’s lives and it helps us to appreciate the physical and metaphorical holes in their lives. And it is a fantastic script by Danai Gurira. She weaves a fascinating story about womanhood and survival that is subtle, and unpredictable, and ultimately hopeful. Director Liesl Tommy also does a noteworthy job of capturing the moments of intensity that make this play so intriguing, like the occasional moments where the wives of the LURD Rebel leader are asked to line up so that he might choose which of them to take back to his tent. While we never see him, we see the trepidation and anxiety in each of these women’s eyes, and these silent moments are big part of what makes this play great.

This is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time, so if you’ve got nothing to do tonight, or over the weekend, or next week, I’d highly recommend checking this one out.

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