African politics can be a complicated business, most often decidedly unglamorous.
Danai Gurira does not prettify the reality. The characters in her drama, Eclipsed, in midst of its Broadway transfer at the Golden Theatre, are all women cast into the scrum of war.
The women have no names, their personhood has been erased by strife. Each of them has a different attitude toward their fate. Each is locked in a cycle of brutalization.
They speak with a shocking matter-of-factness about pillaging, murder and rape. Each women in her own way has been debased and dehumanized.
Wife #3 (Pascale Armand) remains charmingly naive despite the cruelty she has endured. Wife #1 (Saycon Sengbloh) has perserved a bossy tenderness. She tries to shield The Girl (Oscar® winner Lupita Nyong’o in her Broadway debut) as best she can.
Their husband is the unseen, off-stage C.O., whose position as commander provides his wives a measure of protection. One Wife –#2, (the outstanding Zainab Jah), has gone off soldiering in the bush. Her strength is a cynical determination to persevere and triumph against all enemies. She carries a gun like a man, but she too needs protecting in order to survive.
There is hope for peace in the Liberian wild in which Eclipsed takes place in the person of Rita (Akusua Busia), a member of a helpful
interventionist women’s group. Her work at reconciliation is not necessarily welcomed in this balkanized place of internecine conflict and tribal hatred. Here, war can be defined not as winning military victories but by its spoils.
The dialect of Eclipsed is so sing-songy and staccato as to feel foreign yet familiar enough to be clearly understood. The production has come mostly intact from the Public Theater, with Liesl Tommy directing the excellent ensemble.
Clint Ramos’ rustic sets circumscribe the compound in the jungle in which the women live. He has also designed the costumes. The original music and sound design by Broken Chord, which punctuates scene changes, is integral to the atmosphere of Eclipsed.
Eclipsed is powerful and sad. Despite its grim subject matter, Eclipsed is full of humor and humanity.
To learn more about Eclipsed, visit www.eclipsedbroadway.com/