Monday, February 21, 2011

Women's Theatre Project: Eclipsed (3 reviews)

The Women's Theatre Project opened the southeastern premiere of Danai Gurira's Eclipsed on February 17, 2011.
The captive wives of a Liberian rebel officer form a hardscrabble sisterhood, their lives set on a nightmarish detour by civil war.  With the arrival of a new girl who can read - and the return of an old one who can kill - their possibilities are quickly transformed.  Drawing on reserves of wit and compassion, these defiant survivors ask: when the fog of battle lifts, could a different destiny emerge?
Genie Croft directed a cast that included Renata Eastlick, Lela Elam, Karen Stephens, Elvire Emanuell and Carey Hart.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
This is an excellent ensemble of five good actors handling a tense story about an horrific subject. Written by Dana Gurira, a Zimbabwean born in the U.S., Eclipsed is relentless in its portrayal of the rebel life.
Elvire Emanuelle is the one to watch here.  She excels in this piece and that's a hard thing to do when  acting with Karen Stephens, Lela Elam, Renata Eastlick and Carey Hart.
Eclipsed is undoubtedly one of The Women's Theatre Project's better productions.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Dania Gurira’s script and The Women’s Theatre Project’s production may not be especially subtle; occasionally, it’s so rudimentary as to risk being simplistic. But their ultimately affecting portrait of the intentional dehumanization of people during wartime is a shattering indictment of cruelty, especially violence against women.

Director Genie Croft and an ensemble of five fine actresses deliver an unnerving examination of the complex fallout when humanity is jettisoned as a luxury.
Croft has elicited gut-wrenching performances from her cast, but her staging is crippled by the tiny, tiny stage. Some key scenes are played off to the side in an area barely two yards across and a yard deep. This inserts the audience so intimately into the scene that you could reach out to intervene; it’s like watching a film closeup. But the static set up is distracting for being so artificial; the scenes would have had even more impact Croft had some room to move her characters around
But otherwise, the cast is solid in their soul-baring performances whether it’s Stephens’ stolid, wary vigilance for signs of the predatory commandant’s approach or her joy when Rita teaches her to write her name in the dirt with a stick. The blood freezes in sympathetic terror as Eastwick excoriates Number Four when the girl’s resolve flags in executing heinous orders.
But Emanuelle is the find. The Philadelphia native who trained at Barry University only has a handful of credits, but that will change if area directors see her in this production. We watch her evolve from a helpless victim to someone determined to escape this hell by any means possible.... never letting us forget that this child-woman is 15 years old throughout.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Just opened in an impressively acted production, Eclipsed focuses on the captive “wives” of a Liberian rebel commander trying to oust President Charles Taylor in 2003. In truth, the women are sex slaves in the rebel camp, prisoners who pass the time talking, dividing the spoils of war and awaiting a signal to bring food or themselves to satiate the big boss.
Under Genie Croft’s direction, the actors are thoroughly believable as strong African women caught up in the ongoing hell of war. Hart’s accent is sketchy, but the others sound authentic. And deeply, memorably moving.
Eclipsed plays at The Women's Theatre Project through March 13, 2011.

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