The sold-out Off-Broadway premiere of Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed – with a Nov. 29 wrap after being extended twice at The Public Theater – has featured audiences clamoring to see Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o shine in the ensemble drama about five captive women banding together during the Liberian Civil War to discover their own means of survival.
Some notable reviews are:
“Mesmerizing and unmissable.”– New York Magazine
“Scorching and powerful.” – The Guardian
“A riveting, superbly acted production. Lupita Nyoug’o’s tremendously accomplished performance cuts to the bone. Under Liesl Tommy’s sensitive direction, Danai Gurira’s moving play flickers with light, humanity and hope.” – The New York Times
“Eclipsed pulls us into and holds us captive in a vivid world whose stark horrors are rendered with unflinching honesty and delicate poignancy….” – The Hollywood Reporter
And patrons have repeatedly chimed in:
Powerful, well-acted, and heartbreaking work. Every member of the cast and crew should be proud. #Eclipsed #EclipsedPlay
I just saw the most gut-wrenchingly beautiful/painful/important play I’ve ever had the privilege to witness. #eclipsed @PublicTheaterNY
Watched #Eclipsed play and it’s a must see. Great performances all around from #pascalearmand… https://t.co/oxvnvg1ga9
Gurira, Zimbabwean-American playwright and star of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” introduced the play at Yale Repertory Theatre in Fall 2009, during which Nyong’o had an understudy role and Liesl Tommy served as director. In a New York Times interview spotlighting the trio, Tommy stated: “I think with this play what we’re teaching folks is that there are plenty of interesting stories that happen on the vast continent of Africa, and that you can relate to them without seeing yourself, your race, or a version of yourself in it.”
With critics and audiences stunned, the production – written, directed and performed entirely by female artists – heads to Broadway early next year for a limited engagement at John Golden Theater.Nyong’o, who took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 2013 film “12 Years A Slave,” will make her Broadway debut continuing her portrayal of the newest wife, simply known as “The Girl,” of an unseen rebel tyrant.
Gurira debuted on Broadway in 2009 for August Wilson‘s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. She followed it up with In the Continuum, which earned her Obie and Outer Critic Circles awards. Her work Familiar will open at Playwrights Horizons in the spring.
Eclipsed – the only new play by a woman on Broadway this season – will open March 6, with previews beginning Feb. 23. Set to run through June 19, it is produced by Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones-Harvey of Front Row Productions.
Public Theater art director Oskar Eustis is quoted as saying: “Broadway will be better for having Eclipsed on it, and I hope it will break a barrier that will stay broken, if it proves that shows like this can make it on Broadway.”
Eclipsed has won an NAACP Award, the Helen Hayes Award (Best New Play) and Connecticut Critics Circle Award (Outstanding Production of a Play). The cast currently includes Pascale Armand, Akosua Busia, Zainab Jah and Saycon Sengbloh.
Tickets for the Broadway run are on sale HERE.
We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Playwright, educator, opera singer, and Queen, Mfoniso Udofia has two plays running at New York Theatre Workshop. *pause* TWO PLAYS. In the SAME season!?!? *ends congratulatory gasp* Sojourners and Her Portmanteau are performed in repertory, as two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle. Admittedly, before researching each show, I didn’t know the definition of either word; and in the spirit of keeping it consistent with the honesty, I didn’t like either play. I loved them.
Minimalism seems to be the name of the game these days. I sat down to a completely black stage, sans a multimedia display lodged on the ceiling at a 45-degree angle. Clutching my all white program and bobbing my head to the ‘70s pop rock pre-show music, I prepared my heart for the story of Sojourners, well at least that was the plan. The stage begins to rotate and we meet Abasiama (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Ukpong (Hubert Point-Du Jour), Nigerian expatriates sojourning in Houston, Texas with the plan to start a family, earn their degrees, and go back to Nigeria until life happens.
Charming and handsome, Ukpong becomes defined by his leather jacket, shoulder work and shimmy which match the fascination and yearning for freedom that illuminates his eyes every time he talks of peace, protest, and Prince–all shaping his view of 1970s America, and consequently, the American Dream. But does leather compensate for grit? Is a movement or vibe really a panacea for disappointment, aimlessness, and a need to find yourself? Abasiama enters the play pregnant, purposed, and outfitted in pieces of Nigerian garb, grounded in duty showing a stark contrast to Ukpong who floats in desire. What’s lost in your household is found elsewhere, and this is when we start to see, and root for, Abasiama’s transformation from timid to tenacious.
Enter Moxie (Lakisha May), a colorful prostitute turned protector and friend. There is a mutual respect despite great differences between her and Abasiama, with their love for one another creating moments that make you believe in the beauty of humanity. Enter Disciple (Chinaza Uche), another warm and determined hearted immigrant who has come to the United States to study, rounding out the timely additions of love, support, and security when Abasiama needed them the most.
Through and through this is Abasiama’s story and she glows. Her kindness, her sisterhood, her strength, her worthiness, and the realization of her American Dream, guide her decisions—which is the catalyst behind the entire Ufot Cycle.
Her “portmanteau”, or red suitcase, makes a return as 30 years have passed. Abasiama now has two daughters, one raised in America and the other who has come from Nigeria to reconnect with her family.
This is a good moment to mention that each story is informed by the other, but can certainly stand alone on substance, content, and the amazing direction of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. The staging is exciting and deliberate, while minimal, putting the full focus on the tension and growth to be expected of a family reunited after a substantial amount of time and distance.
Chinasa Ogbuagu returns to the stage, this time as the American-born daughter, Adiagha Ufot, Adepero Oduye as Iniabasi Ekpeyoung (Ukpong and Abasiama’s daughter), and Jenny Jules as the mother, Abasiama Ufot.
Seated on a couch in Adiagha’s small New York Apartment, no amount of preparation readies your mind and spirit to form the words to make up for 30 years of life, connection, and memories missed. We’re taken on a ride of resentment, hurt, love, and forgiveness, as the portmanteau is literally unpacked. We watch the teeter-tottering between offense and defense as one sister tries to assimilate into American culture, and the other attempts, albeit stubbornly, to fall in formation in honoring a family she shares blood with, but little time or tangible history.
It’s powerful to see a story of history and continuing a legacy despite lost time, faulty promises, and difficult choices explored with an all-woman cast as far too often the idea of legacy is framed in patriarchy. Jules admirably takes Abasiama through the fire to heal, to feel, and to fix her family. The narrative allows us to empathize and understand the struggle that comes with upholding family values versus cultivating a space to achieve personal dreams and happiness.
Her Portmanteau (and Sojourners) is written in a way that finds your soul, gently massaging it with humor, while leaving it with very real questions. I’ve never felt a greater need to binge read nine stories and simultaneously study the story of my own family tree. I left changed. I left wrapped in the strength of my mom and my mom’s- mom’s sacrifice. I left pensive and with seeds of future forgiveness planted. I left changed.
For capturing our hearts with wit and with truth. For putting Black women at the center of a poignant narrative. For unapologetically telling a story you haven’t seen told and telling it in the way you want it to be told.
We thank you Mfoniso. We thank you.
Have you seen the #duetplays? Sound off in the comments below![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
Last winter, we reported on Sojourners by playwright Mfoniso Udofia, a new play about a Nigerian family who has come to America with the goal of earning a college education, starting a family, and returning to Nigeria. But not without the twists and turns that come along with every plan that seems straightforward.
Thanks to New York Theatre Workshop, we get to relive this moment and continue the dialogue, decades later, with Her Portmanteau. Performed in repertory, these two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, chronicle the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family.
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar directs the two-part story in association with The Playwrights Realm, who premiered Sojourners last winter in a limited engagement world premiere production. Her Portmanteau also received the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award grant.
As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, we have an exclusive deal for our Broadway Black readers!
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price!
Yes. That’s two shows for one price! The discount code BWYBLACK will take 50% off tickets to ANY performance(s) if purchased by May 15th!
Go ahead and grab your tickets. We have ours!
Sojourners and Her Portmanteau plays at NYTW until June 4th.
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