Today I witnessed a very special Broadway play. I use the word “witness” because I feel like I was privy to a story that demanded being told. It’s about a group of women in Africa undergoing a very private experience that we otherwise would perhaps never know about…or understand.
Danai Gurira’s original drama is about women’s suffering during the Liberian civil wars and it’s a one of a kind. It stars Lupita Nyong’o in her Broadway debut, but it’s truly an ensemble play in which every actress has a stand out performance playing a woman with her own unique experience during a dire situation. The play is edge of your seat suspenseful, yet beautiful, and directed by a South African director who obviously loves the play – her name is Liesl Tommy. The staging, the set, the clothing all meshes into very powerful storytelling. The show also stars Pascale Armand, Akosua Busia, Zainab Jah and Saycon Sengbloh, who are, to be honest, all phenomenal.
I went to a matinee, having bought a discount ticket, which I feel lucky to have gotten – the line to get in was around the block. Clearly Nyong’o will bring in an audience for this show, which is so important as it clearly spells out the true dangers that exist today in certain African countries. This play is a clear reminder, a good one, that theater is an excellent way to share important stories from around the world.
The play revolves around a group of “wives” (code word for sex slaves in this case) of a commanding officer of a Liberian rebel faction. The women must spend everyday awaiting his command. As they go one by one to him when called upon, the return taking a rag and dipping it in water before wiping their private parts. We never see him but we sense their fear. None of these women have names, they are known as wife #1, 2, etc. and they each one is stripped of all dignity. One is pregnant. One is only 15 years old. She reads to the women, she wants more from life. Funnily enough, the book she reads is about Bill Clinton and the women become obsessed with him and Monica Lewinsky. That story is eerily weaved throughout the play….but believe me, it works.
The wives try to protect the youngest from the officer but it’s only a matter of time before he starts to call on her. At the end of act one, when she relays how much she hates him laying his hands on her, we know her rebellion is just beginning.
The play is a look inside what it’s like to live in a war zone. It’s a look into a group of women who have been dehumanized. It’s intense, it’s wonderful. I hope that you see it while you have a chance. Get info about the show here: http://eclipsedbroadway.com.