One doesn’t have to go as far as Africa’s Liberian Civil War to be faced with women being abused, raped and subjugated but playwright Danai Gurira puts the spotlight on high beam as she exposes the plight of five diverse women trying to survive in a bullet ridden hut – washing clothes, cooking meals and awaiting their turn to sexually satisfy their rebel commander while trying to survive the perils of a war-torn country.
The acting is superb. At times you will know what is happening by their body language alone. And that is a major plus. Heavily accented for the sake of authenticity your ears will be put to the test of frustratingly trying to understand what they are saying. The volume is fine. It’s the clarity that is missing.
A disservice to the author and to the audience.
Nevertheless ECLIPSED at the Golden Theatre makes a powerful statement. These women who bond together are nameless – they are only given numbers – but will eventually find their given names and their identity with the help of Rita (Akosua Busia) a peace advocate.
Wife #1 – the eldest at age 25 (Saycon Sengbloh) is more or less resigned to her fate in life.
Wife #2 (Zainab Jah) has left the compound to become a rebel soldier.
Wife #3 (Pascale Armand) wears wigs, is pregnant and is an extrovert.
The Girl (Lupita Nyong’o) Wife #4 is 15 and is being hidden to try to keep her virginity intact. She can read and write. It is with a book about Bill Clinton that humor makes life a bit more tolerable as they each await their turn with the commander (unseen) and return to clean up the damage done between their legs.
It’s not an easy life. Patience and prayer and fortitude are necessary to survive. In a series of short scenes the sex slave/wives become fully developed. Frustrating as it is to understand them we feel for them.
Choices must be made. Not easy choices. By plays end the choices of where to go and what to do thickly hover in indecision land.
The acting is exceptional and director Liesl Tommy must be commended for bringing this difficult story to vivid and unsettling life. Less focus on their dialect would make ECLIPSED even more accessible. Two hours and 15 minutes – one intermission.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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