New talent impresses in PAD’s ‘Eclipsed’

| Music Editor

A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre
Friday and Saturday: 8 p.m.
Sunday: 2 p.m.
Price: $10 for students

The five characters of Danai Gurira’s “Eclipsed”—four wives married to the same high-ranking officer and peace advocate—find themselves trapped not only by rebel fighting but also by their own beliefs. These women live in a rebel army camp during the last leg of the Liberian Civil War. The women, stuck in a world of forced wifedom and war, do not live great lives, but each woman finds her own way to survive by choosing the path she truly believes is the way to a better life.

The play opened at the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre this past weekend. As I took my seat, I felt uncomfortable by my proximity to the stage. I did some preliminary research on the topic of Liberia and the nation’s internal conflict, so I was aware of the emotional nature of “Eclipsed.” (There’s an informative timeline provided in the playbill, though, so feel free to skip the research before attending.) I wasn’t sure that I would like being this close to the actors.

But when the lights dimmed, I was grateful for the intimate atmosphere. Gurira’s dialogue presented five complex characters. They all had their own problems and solutions, but each woman had her own honest charm that benefited from the personal ambience.

Number 1/Helena (played by senior Jessica Davie) is the oldest of the wives. She can’t have children of her own, so she transforms the younger wives into substitute children, often braiding their hair and keeping order. Davie’s characterization of Helena is so rich with emotional depth that audiences will find it difficult not to form an immediate emotional connection with her.

If Helena controls your heart, the character of Number 3/Bessie holds your laughter. Sophomore Eboney Hutt impresses in her first performance on the Hotchner stage. She successfully treads the line between surprisingly funny and delicately fragile.

Sophomore Yasmin Boakye plays Rita Endee, a peace advocate from the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. She acts as a mother figure to Helena, teaches her to write and takes care of her for the first time since Helena was forced into the camp.

Boakye serves as a nice contrast to Eboni Sharp’s Number 2/Maima/Disgruntled. Like Hutt, this production is a first for Sharp. Sharp gives a skillful performance and her rookie status does not bog down her depiction of Maima.

The final character is the Girl, who makes the journey from naive innocence to pressured violence over the course of the play. Vanika Spencer, a student from University of Missouri-St. Louis, gives a practiced performance portraying this journey.

All in all, the Performing Arts Department’s “Eclipsed” is a moving performance, well cast in its actors and poignant in its message.

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