These days it seems like a provocative idea to use the word “Mecca” to suggest creative freedom.
It was also provocative in the small Karoo Village in 1974 in South Africa, where Miss Helen (Rosemary Harris) taunts her neighbors in Athol Fugard’s “The Road to Mecca,” at Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre through March 4th. But for vastly different reasons than our present day associations.
Rosemary Harris as Miss Helen and Carla Gugino as Elsa Barlow in “The Road To Mecca” Photo © Joan Marcus
Miss Helen is visited by an old friend Elsa Barlow (Carla Gugino) from the more progressive areas of South Africa; Elsa is as concerned about Miss Helen’s continuing to live alone as is the little town’s pastor, Marius Byleveld (Jim Dale). Elsa and Marius would seem to have very different reasons for worrying over Miss Helen.
Carla Gugino as Elsa Barlow in “The Road To Mecca” Photo © Joan Marcus
The titular “The Road To Mecca” is a collection of sculptures that Miss Helen has made in her yard. To her they are symbols of hope and good will. To her more conservative neighbors they are oddities and abominations.
Jim Dale as Marius Beyleveld, Carla Gugino as Elsa Barlow, and Rosemary Harris as Miss Helen in “The Road To Mecca” Photo © Joan Marcus
Athol Fugard, who is a recipient of a Tony for Lifetime Achievement, has crafted a loving portrait of an artist. Rosemary Harris, and Jim Dale, both Tony-winning veterans, and Carla Gugino light up the stage in this play about independence of thought and action.
For more information about “The Road To Mecca,” please visit www.roundabout.org.