PLAYWRIGHT AND WALKING DEAD STAR DANAI GURIRA TELLS A STORY OF BRAVERY AND WOMEN WHO NEVER GIVE UP.
‘ECLIPSED’ IS A POWERFUL NEW PLAY THAT BRINGS SELF DIGNITY TO WOMEN WHO FIGHT IN WARS OF BOTH POLITICS AND AND THEIR OWN SURVIVAL
The Tony winning new play “Eclipsed” maked its West Coast premiere as part of the sizzling inaugural season at the newly restored Curran Theatre. This important new play is now on stage only through March 18 at the SF Curran. Written by Danai Gurira, who was on hand opening night and dedicated her explosive “Eclipsed” to Ladi Joel and Saraya Samuel, two girls abducted by Boko Haram. The Haram name loosely translates as "Western education is forbidden", the war against the state since 2003 has established a medieval-style storm of hate in the north of their country. It has railed against the use of Western style curricula in schools. Gurira asked the opening night crowd to speak their names aloud, it was an impressive way to open ‘Eclipsed” at its West Coast premiere after winning a Tony for costumes in New York.
Danai Gurira is also an actor best known to “The Walking Dead” fans as Michonne in the hit show. Gurira is clever with politics and in “Eclipsed” she creates a drama about the intense roles women played in the 2nd Liberian civil war. Skillfully directed by Liesl Tommy and chillingly acted by an accomplished ensemble led by the polished Ayesha Jordan, the story gives voice from the wives of warlords to leaders of Women Liberia Action for Peace, the political group that brought an end to that awful war.
The two hour production includes a detailed design by Tony winner Clint Ramos who streamlines some important sets and costumes inspired by his upbringing in Baler, Philippines where he witnessed political strife first hand. The women are colorfully clothed in well worn native dress. When they aren’t pleasuring the unseen lord and master, they remain in the small room, cooking, laundering his clothes and awaiting his every command. Jen Schriever’s light design takes us to the Liberia village with moody sunrises and the horror of the darkness the women deal with. Original music and pounding sound design by Broken Chord presents a surreal bullet-riddled one room hut where the caged wives live.
The women are property of a base commander of the rebel Liberian army; they are housed is rural surroundings fearing their next visit with “him”. Sequestered in this small, suffocating room doing menial daily chores, they are awaiting his every command.Janice Abbott-Pratt as wife #3 gives birth in the first act; she is exceptional in the role of the questioning wife. The provocative Stacey Sargeant plays the mom or #1 wife the stern and sensible heart of the household as she encourages the other wives to guess their ages. They hardly remember their given names or when they were born. The fully realised Adeola Role plays wife #2 and a soldier who has left the compound to fight. She revisits the house and discovers the new 4th wife and forces her into battle rather than be a sexual slave.
The women have lost everything including their birth names, or in some cases have tried to forget them. The magnetic Akosua Busia appears as Rita who has come to save the women and is in search of the young wife #4. Rita encourages the other women to remember their birth name and who their mothers were. The story is based on events that happened more than ten years ago. It is still very powerful today as the same scenario still plays out as we read about Ladi Joel and Saraya Samuel kidnappings. As more than one African country continues to be terrorized by violence, where women are the brutalized victims or forced into sex slaves.
Directed with emotional power by Liesl Tommy, she reminds us that African women are dynamic and she brings an intensity to this larger stage production than in NY. Tommy said “I felt very humbled walking into (the Curran) looking at this massive space, thinking Wow we get to be in here. You can really open up storytelling visually because we have more space here”
“Eclipsed” reaches a driving climax in a monologue by Ayesha Jordan who is war shocked as she recounts being forced into horrible atrocities. She is in disbelief with the brutality she was forced into. The story ends in a question and not a solution, Gurira has truly created an awe inspiring important play about the terrible awareness of war and its haunting effects as seen through these amazing women.
The Public Theatre and Curran SF Present
By Danai Gurira
Directed by Liesl Tommy, Music by Broken Chord
Only through: March 19
The SF Curran
450 Geary St., San Francisco
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, one intermission
Tickets: $29-$140; 415-358-1220
Purchase at: https://sfcurran.com/shows/eclipsed/
25.00 rush seats at Todaytix.com
Photo’s by Little Fang Photography
Boko Haram reference - from Catrina Stewart Independent UK news feed
VIDEO REEL ECLIPSED
TONY WINNER DESIGNER CLINT RAMOUS TALKS ABOUT HIS DESIGN FOR ECLIPSED
CBS NEWS FEATURE ON THE NEW PLAY
OPENING NIGHT PHOTO'S WITH THE CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM