Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Eclipsed @ The Golden Theater

An eye-opening event, Eclipsed is something that will leave a lasting impression on you. Set in 2003, it tells the story of five different women’s survivals during the Second Liberian Civil War.  
Each woman’s experience is different, but at the same time, the core value of persistence and preservation thrives.

You enter the Golden Theater to be met with a minimalistic set that looks like a broken down hut.  The show begins and you are instantly transported to war.  We meet Wife #1 and Wife #3 who show fear and strength when the unseen Commanding Officer comes to select who will be joining him that night. We are then surprised when out from an unsuspecting set piece, comes Lupita Nyong'o, playing The Girl.  

The story continues and you learn that these women have been abducted and collected as the “wives” of the CO who he uses for his pleasure when he pleases.  The wives try to keep The Girl from being seen, but she is found and soon becomes Wife #4. Here, we see one of the ways women survived this brutal war.  Next, we meet Rita, who is a peace officer (with her own motives) who goes from camp to camp urging the COs to end this conflict.  She befriends Wife #1 and urges her to abandon her CO and become a peace officer, learn to read and have a chance of survival on her own terms.  Finally we meet Wife #3, who has left her place as wife and rapee, to become a solider.  She tries to sway The Girl to join her and take control of her destiny, putting a machine gun in her hand and promising her that anything she wants can be hers for the taking.  The Girl must choose between life of protection but no control of her body, or taking a place in the army and leading other girls to the same fate.  

A play about women, by women and starring all women, Eclipsed truly shines.  While the dialect and accents are can be hard to follow, you eventually settle in and have no trouble following along, empathizing and yearning for resolution.  While Lupita Nyong'o does well in the role, it was Pascale Armand, playing the wise-cracking, but all truthful, pregnant Wife #2 who really stole the show.  With her own battle of survival based around her unwanted pregnancy, her feelings about the CO and her eventual unwavering mother’s love toward her child, you cannot help but want the best for her.

Overall, Eclipsed gives a wonderful insight to a war that many, including myself, were completely unaware about.  You empathize with the women, even if you do not agree with their choices.  You are transported to their land, their homes and their turmoils through the skillful use of lighting (Jen Schriever) and the powerful sound design (Broken Chord).  You are exposed to a world that is unlike your own.  Kudos to Danai Gurira for her writing and to Liesl Tommy for her direction on a play that is unlike anything you have seen before.  Eclipsed is running on strictly limited engagement through June 19th.

Review By: Renee Demaio
Photos By: Sara Krulwich

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