October 11, 2010
By Alan Bresloff
The Silk Road Project is dedicated to showcasing playwrights of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean backgrounds. The works they select address themes that are relevant to the people of “The Silk Road” and their ultimate purpose is to make others aware of their culture and be able to see the importance in this culture. Their current production “Scorched” is a Chicago Premiere, written by Wajdi Mouawad, a Lebanese writer, from French Canada, with a translation by Linda Gaboriau, is one that will keep you spellbound as the mysterious story unfolds. We start in the office of a “notary” (a sort of attorney) played with just the right touch by Chicago veteran actor Frederick Stone. With him are two young people, twins, a boy, Simon, (solidly played by Nick Cimino) and his sister, Janine (played with great heart by Lacy Katherine Campbell, who needs only to project a little better to attain perfection in this role). Their mother has died and they are about to hear the contents of the will. The will has some very special terms, these being the heart and soul of the mystery on their lives. They are two letters, one for Adam to deliver to his brother (who he was unaware of), the other for Janine to deliver to her father (who they had thought had passed away during wartime as a hero). Until this is done, she will be buried as a nobody with no casket and no headstone. Once the letters are delivered, they can put the engraved headstone on her grave, so the world will know she is in fact there.
While this is a play that deals with war and the results of power struggles, it is in fact a marvelous love story, with great depth and a powerful cast under the brilliant leadership of director Dale Heinen, a young director who truly shows vision and soul in the way she brings this story to the stage. As we watch the two siblings search for answers to the puzzle, the mystery that their mother has woven, we get to watch flashbacks of the years in which their mother was young and in love. The mother is played by three enchanting actresses, who although different in appearance, all seem to “get” who she was and what her needs were. Young Nawal is played by Rinska M. Carrasco, Middle by the powerful Carolyn Hoerdemann and Old by the glorious Diana Simonzadeh. All three of these women shine in bringing this character to life, but be prepared, you might want to bring a tissue or two for the final scenes played to perfection by Ms Simonzadeh.
This is a puzzling plot with lots of mystery that I will not give away as to truly get the full enjoyment and theatrical experience of this beautiful production, one must come in with an open mind and listen and watch the story come to life. It will! This I can promise you and there are some surprises as well. The actors in this production take on many smaller roles in addition to their major parts and each one plays each role with the same type of power as the entire cast does: Adam Poss, Justin James Farley and Fawzia Mirza are the actors who make this show complete!
The set by Tom Burch is quite effective in limiting the number of changes, yet allowing us to travel into the small Middle Eastern villages and the other locations without having a lot of changes. On the center of the stage we have a platform that is surrounded by sand so that the scenes in the dessert work better. Carol J. Blanchard’s costumes are divine and the sound by Peter J. Storms works to a “T”. Jesse Gaffney’s props and Mike Tutaj’s projections along with the lighting by Sarah Hughey complete the perfect picture.
While the topic of “Civil war” is essential to the play, this is not really a “war story” but rather an exploration of some of the results of war, as well as a love story that is difficult to comprehend at first, but once you view this masterpiece of theater, you will see that this type of thing may not be fiction at all. In fact, it may be more realistic than one would think. We deal with true love, pure hate, anger, rage and war, all in the confines of 2 hours and forty five minutes ( at least the seats are comfortable) and much of this you will find to be more poetry than literature. Poetry in the mind, more that lines that rhyme. I for one found this to be an extraordinary experience that gave me a wonderful story and a peek into another culture- Thanks, Silk Road Theatre Project for a wonderful experience!