Pictured (l-r): Teisha M. Bankston, and Njeri Mungai. Photo by Cynthia Levin.
Review: ECLIPSED at Unicorn Theatre
By Bec Pennington
ECLIPSED plunges us without sympathy into the confusing and traumatic experiences of war. It gives no more explanation than the hearsay and misunderstandings that prevail in those circumstances – the same ones that guide the perpetrators as well as their victims in their life choices. Why are these women here? Where did they come from? How long has life been this way? Will it end, and what will come after? At first it is easy to look on the stage with pity, but the story has the brilliance to disarm and dismantle our comfortable beliefs. At first we are sure that we, in our soft chairs with our glasses of wine, are more informed, more well-adjusted, more capable of discerning life’s parameters and opportunities. Slowly, we begin to grapple with these five women as they move forward with the information and truth that they have at their disposal. These are certainly not the choices I’d make in their position, unless maybe… they are? As time elapses and the war drags on, it becomes easier to understand how one might have lost sense of how old she is, and then has even lost memory of her name. It becomes easy to comprehend why one must take up arms with her captors, and why another absolutely cannot flee her country, despite the opportunity.
People of traumatic background don’t often get the luxury of calling it a “background.” Trauma bends the mind and heart to its will, and it is amazing what we as humans and especially as women are capable of in the effort to divine control from chaos and dignity from destruction. This play explains the transformation of the psyche in a disturbingly relatable way. It hits you and then dares you not to cry.
The cast of five delivers the story impeccably, affecting believable accents while carrying the weight of their characters’ stories with considerable respect. I couldn’t pick a standout; they were all amazing, but without Ashley Kennedy’s comedic relief, I think the play would not have been able to reach me fully. I felt for her “Bessie” at the end in an especially deep way.
Technically, the show is also well-executed, with a simple set that many of the theatergoers wanted to touch to believe. The lighting was good, though I felt that some scenes could have used it more effectively to guide the audience’s focus between characters that weren’t supposed to be able to see each other. The actors aren’t miked, which is fine for a small-stage production like this one, but I have to wonder if the performers might be allowed even more range if we could hear them whisper as well as project. Trigger warnings must include the use of guns and descriptions of rape and murder, as well as implied rapes off-stage.
This production is full of desperation and sorrow, but perhaps the greatest triumph of ECLIPSED is that it left me not feeling violated as I feared, but instead humbled, with a great sense of respect and admiration for those who have fought to survive.
ECLIPSED runs through April 2nd. For more information visit unicorntheatre.org.