African tale encapsulates women’s sufferings


[media-credit name=”Cynthia Levin & courtesy of The Unicorn” align=”alignright” width=”300″]EclipsedReadingA[/media-credit]

By Bob Evans

Usually, freedom comes with a price as we are told and reminded annually on Memorial Day when Americans honor those who died to win, secure, and protect our freedoms. The price is both dear and deadly at the time. The continuance of freedom draws bloodshed and demand lives of those who defend and protect it.

In the Unicorn’s newest production, “Eclipsed,” freedom is not yet won nor defended, but still a raging war among war lords in the African country of Liberia. The story focuses on five women and their place in that society as they come to imagine freedom from the standpoint of where their lives lie now and the uncertainty of where those lives might lead in a different set of circumstances.

[media-credit name=”Bob Evans” align=”alignleft” width=”240″]EclipsedPair[/media-credit]

The Unicorn’s production of “Eclipsed” by Danai Gurira (best known for her role as Michonne on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) shows the woman’s side of war in a third world country. According to The Unicorn, “Eclipsed” is about the complicated sisterhood of five young Liberian women caught up in a civil war. While the captive wives of a Liberian rebel officer draw on their compassionate humor to survive, a new girl arrives who can read; a former wife who has become a fierce soldier returns; and, a peace worker attempts to lead them all to better lives. The resilience of all these women will be tested in this powerful struggle to forge a new future.

Cynthia Levin, producing artistic director selected a strong cast of young African-American women to portray the different persons in this story of women in a war-ravaged country. Each woman comes with different desires and hopes. Some hope to escape; some choose to remain; some make good choices; some not. Levin directs her cast in a manner that allows them to find humor amongst themselves as they develop their characters. Even though the show is very intense and dramatic, bits of humor throughout keep it from being a heavy drama.

[media-credit name=”Cynthia Levin & courtesy of The Unicorn” align=”alignright” width=”300″]EclipsedGroupA[/media-credit]

The role of a woman in this story is to survive on meager means and serve the men of the army. In this case, the audience meets Wife 1, Wife 2, Wife 3, and the new Wife 4. Only Wife 2 does not follow the pattern because she’s escaped her position to become a warrior. Wife 1 runs the “wife compound” and decides who get what spoils of war. Wife 3 carries her first child by the war lord in command. Wife 4 learns quickly what happens to young women who are caught alone in the compound.

The struggle to accept and live in this war-torn situation emphasized the role of women in a third world country. Their bodies provide the sexual pleasures of the men in command. While the wives are treated better, those captured become gang rape victims and are merely tossed away after use. Human life, in this case, has little value. The grim existence reminds how far freedom has come and how fragile its existence remains.

[media-credit name=”Cynthia Levin & courtesy of The Unicorn” align=”alignleft” width=”240″]EclipsedConflict[/media-credit]

The cast who bring so much to the characters in “Eclipsed” are: Diane Yvette as Helena; Ashley Kennedy as Bessie; Taisha M Bankston as The Girl; Njeri Mingai as Maima, and Amber A. McKinnon as Rita. All actresses showed strong, rich character development and found different levels to fine-tune their characters and give them depth.

The set, costumes, sound, props, and light all added a richness to the production The crew for this show deserves special recognition. The artistic staff is: Tanya Brown, stage manager; Emily Swenson, scenic designer; Margot Adolphe, assistant scenic designer; Nicole Jaja, lighting designer; Shannon Barondeau, assistant lighting designer; Jae Shanks, sound designer; Leah Mazur, costume designer; and Sarah White, properties designer.

“Eclipsed” runs through April 2. Tickets, show times, prices, and more information can be found on The Unicorn website.

Tags: The Unicorn, “Eclipsed”, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Theater


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