Monday, April 18, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: Eclipsed

Akosua Busia and Lupita Nyong’o in ECLIPSED Off-Broadway at The Public Theater. Photo: Joan Marcus
History Made as Women Help Each Other Through the Horrors of War
By Lauren Yarger
While Eclipsed, a gripping story of women helping each other through the horrors of war, gives us a glimpse into situations thankfully most of us in the audience never have had to face, interestingly, it also brings to light the fact that women in the United States still have a way to go to achieve equality.

The play, written by Danai Gurira (whom fans of TV’s “The Walking Dead” will know as Michonne), marks the first time in Broadway history that a play has an all-female creative team (that’s writer Gurira and director Liesl Tommy) and an all female cast (all African-Americans as well – also a first).

Think about it. It’s 2016 and that is the first time that has happened? I am glad it has happened, but when you realize that Gurira and Tommy are quite in the minority if you run through writer and director credits on Broadway stages (or any theater stage for that matter), you realize we still have a road ahead before achieving parity. It’s sobering. And this Broadway transfer from a sold-out run at Off-Broadway’s Public Theatre probably wouldn’t have happened without the casting of a star -- Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for her supporting role in “12 Years a Slave.”

Nyong’o is known only as The Girl – the fourth woman taken by a warlord in Liberia. She and the other “wives” are known only by their number – indicating the order in which they were taken. Wife #1 (Saycon Sengbloh) is a sort of mother figure to the other girls. She tries to keep peace between  #3 (Pascale Armand) , a young, immature girl who has become the sexual favorite of her captor and who finds herself with an unwanted child growing inside her, and #2 (Zainab Jah), who has gained a bit of independence by becoming a machine gun-wielding soldier herself.

When the other women are unable to keep The Girl hidden from their master/husband, he has his way with her. Once she becomes a wife, she joins in the life and rituals of their hut-like dwelling, where they sleep on the floor (Set Design by Clint Ramos, who also designs the costumes). When the Commanding Officer beckons, the docile women line up for selection,. Then the one he has picked goes off stage to do his will, returning shortly to wipe herself clean with a rag kept in a shared shallow basin full of water and their blood. The matter-of-fact way this happens is chilling.

In between sexual duties, the women help each other and sit enraptured as The Girl reads to them from a book about President Bill Clinton (his escapades with Monica Lewinsky -- whom the women assume is his Wife #2 -- and the country’s rather easy acceptance of that behavior are another reminder that women in the United States still have a way go to be treated as equals). They fight over cast off clothes brought to them by wife #2, who tries to recruit The Girl as a soldier, convincing her that the only real power comes through having a gun in your hand.

Trying to counter the horrible situation is Rita (Akosua Busia), who is seeking peace and an end to the civil wars that have torn her country apart. She visits the rebel camp and urges the women to try to remember who they are and the name their mothers gave to them. The truth is that most of them can’t even remember their mothers, never mind a time when they thought of themselves as a person.

Gurira’s play, which she wrote after traveling to Africa and interviewing actual war survivors, is deeply disturbing, but not enough some how. The women seem too complacent, too not shattered by their circumstances – even The Girl who is new to it. We feel outraged, but they don’t seem to – and perhaps that’s part of the purpose of the story – to show how dehumanizing the plight of the women is. We don’t experience enough of their journey, however, to comprehend it, though music and sounds by Broken Chord Collective help enhance the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the show has launched a far-reaching campaign to bring young women to the show The “10,000 Girls Campaign,” will distribute tickets to girls from the Tri-State area between ages 16 to 24 who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience a Broadway show.

The National Urban League is a sponsor with Front Row Productions. Individuals and organizations may make a tax- eductible donation through the Broadway Education Alliance by visiting https://npo.justgive.org/BroadwayEducationAlliance. For more information visit www.tenthousandgirls.com.

Eclipsed plays through June 19 at the Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th St., NYC. Performances are Tickets are $59.50 - $99.50: http://eclipsedbroadway.com; 212- 239-6200.


Additional credits:

Hair,Wig and Makeup Design by Cookie Jordan; Lighting Design by Jennifer Schriever

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS


-- Language


-- Mature Themes

Full Disclosure: Good friend Pat Addiss is a producer of the show. This doesn't influence what I write, but I like to be up front about these things.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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