Theater Defined: When "ECLIPSED" Took Over Charlotte.
Charlotte, NC-- This past weekend, BNS Productions closed out its 8-day epic called ECLIPSED. The stage production ran from August 22- September 1 at 345 N College St, Charlotte, NC 28202 (Duke Energy Theater Spirit Square).
Producer, Playwright, Author and Artistic Director, Rory Sheriff knows no bounds when dealing with theater.
Sheriff bestows humor as well as inspiring performances, whether from his own experiences or simply rebooting classic (Be A Lion, Boys to Baghdad, and August Wilson’s stage play, Jitney) productions to fit this generation of audiences.
When he collaborated with Director, Dee Abdullah, to bring ECLIPSED to life, it was with unquestionable certainty that audiences would be wildly entertained, and so it went...
"ECLIPSED takes place in the country of Liberia in 2003, and is set in a bullet ridden, dilapidated one-room shelter. This serves as an army base camp for the rebel group called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), which aimed to depose Charles Taylor, the then president of Liberia. The Unseen Commanding Officer KIDNAPS TWO YOUNG WOMEN (Helen & Bessie), making them his wives. The women are helping to care for and protect a bright 15-year-old (The Girl) from C.O.
Maima, also known as Wife #2, returns from the battlefield where she was fighting as a soldier, while, Rita, who works for a peace organization, makes occasional visits at the compound to mitigate conflict. Tension mounts as each woman wrestles against apathy and resignation, striving to preserve a piece of her own identity, dignity and resolve in a realm that is worked entirely against them.”
In the newest works, ECLIPSED, written by Danai Gurira, and Directed by Dee Abdullah, offered up an electrifying narrative about life on the other side of the world, exposing the truths, desperation, and hopes instilled in wife Helena [played by Toni Oliver], Maima [played by Tracie Frank], Bessie [Racquel Nathiri], and The Girl [Gbale Allen].
The women are all remarkable actors from their pierced cries, that sting the hearts of audiences in an emotional terrain, to the dumbfounded looks on their faces when caught off guard. It was beautiful. It was witty and different. It was theater. It. was. unadulterated... theater.
The women, who’ve been taken by guerillas of war, survive the best way they know how, as concubines who’ve been stripped of their natural identities, down to their very names. Nothing is more demeaning than having your own name doffed and replaced by an ingenuous number, but they make the best of it. The women spend their leisure time cooking and listening to the radio. They depend on one another to survive.
#1 [Helena], she’s the headstrong leader of the pack. #1 followed the commander for years, and has grown comfortable with her convictions as well as her position, that is until the young women began to rebel as times change and the war is dwindling down.
#2 [Maima] enlisted the militia as an insurgent. She becomes a prisoner of her own devices and doesn’t even realize it. #2 thinks that hostility is the answer to all of their problems. She believes in women’s rights, but for all the erroneous reasons. #2 is an ally for the other commanders. She murders at will—Compassion is a lethargic stranger to her soul.
Powerful scene with leaders of peace [RIta] and war [#2]
#3 [Bessie], doesn’t have the muscle to lead, but she seems to be the dimwit glue that holds everyone together. #3 doesn’t take any sides, she’s more of a comical peace keeper, who's overly dramatic about materialist things. For instance, a worn dress is the equivalent of gold in her eyes. Books are like water for the women, and they don’t care how outdated they are. Especially #3-- She is abundantly thankful to have at least one in her possession.
Wives #1 [holding broomm], #3 sitting on stool and #4 reading a paragraph from the book.
#4 [The Girl], she adds vitality, freshness, and purity to the faction. #1 and #3, they try to protect her from the fanatical commander; but he grows bored with #1, and impregnates #3, he then sets his sights on the younger lass. Unfortunately, he has his way with her, and changes her piously for the worse.
Rita [Ruby Edwards], she’s like the United Nations, the angelic mediator, who travels between the compounds, extenuating peace. Rita is more powerful than she gives herself credit. Not only is she erudite, but she’s free in mind and spirit. Rita refuses to conform to idealizations and bureaucratic traditions, which makes her not only dominate, but a threat to the men orchestrating the battles. They fear her.
Ruby praying with #1
In short: BNS provided a plethora of astounding culture and ideals, not just from one character, but all of them. Women, shinning form the inside. They all had voices, no matter how small or loud—They shared a cohesion that was rabble-rousing, humorous, overly protective, and symbolic. They were spiritual sisters in the struggle, who maintained in daring ways. They lay on the floor of the compound, in the middle of the wilderness. Their bravery is the only necessity that they had. For them, America is a great place of wonderment and opportunity, while Liberia is a volatile battlefield that happens to be their home. And yet… they make the best of it.
#2 training #4 for combat
ECLIPSED is a must see, and a must feel, a must experience, a must witness, time and time again.
Toni Oliver, Gyyrl, you had us clutching our pears at that last scene! Kuddos to you for bringing that fire and passion, because this, this is what acting is all about!
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