Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An Intense Tale of Women's Struggles

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An Intense Tale of Women's Struggles

Article excerpt

Lupita Nyong'o's memorable, Oscar-winning portrayal of a brutalized young woman in "12 Years a Slave" is rivaled by her gripping performance in "Eclipsed," in her New York stage debut.

The slender 32-year-old actress plays a frightened 15-year-old girl caught up in the endless cruelty of the Liberian civil war.

Her character, identified only as the Girl, is taken as a "wife" by a commanding officer in the rebel army fighting President Charles Taylor, joining several other women he has captured and pressed into service as combination cooks, cleaners and sex slaves.

Danai Gurira's fierce, angry play, which opened Wednesday night at the Public Theater, is set in the early 2000s, but its tale of women struggling to maintain a sense of self amid unspeakable degradation feels depressingly current.

The Girl is Wife Number Four -- the women don't use their names, burying them for when the war ends, when they'll (hopefully) be free and in possession once again of their lives.

Wife Number One (Saycon Sengbloh) has been held captive so long, she doesn't even remember how old she is. Amid her suffering, though, she's also adapted to her circumstances. She feels a certain pride in being the first, boss wife, in charge of the others. That she's no longer desired by her "husband" sexually is both a relief and a shame.

She tried to hide the Girl when the younger woman stumbled into the rebel's camp, but the Girl was discovered, raped and assigned to the hut with the other women.

Wife Number Three, the pregnant Bessie (Pascale Armand), is good- natured, flighty and vain, dealing with her plight by fixating on her clothes and hairstyle.

The absent Number Two, Maima (Zainab Jah), shows up later, a swaggering rebel warrior with an automatic weapon slung over her shoulder. She's taken the only path to escape from being a subjugated woman, which is to become, like a man, a pitiless killer. …

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