Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Road to Mecca-- Seattle Rep

Seattle Repertory Theatre
January 15- February 14 2009
Tickets and Information

As the replacement of Waiting for Godot, the Seattle Rep’s production of The Road to Mecca, written by renowned South African playwright Athol Fugard, successfully opened with a full house and a week of previews under its belt.

The Road to Mecca is a relational drama about a reclusive folk artist and the friendships she has left in 1970s apartheid South Africa. Widowed Miss Helen (Dee Maaske) has spent the last 15 years of her life turning her home into an eccentric collage of beautiful art and statues. While slowly pushing herself further away from the very religious community of Nieu-Bethesda, she has retained companions in two opposing forces: the willful city schoolteacher Elsa (Marya Sea Kaminski) and the traditional village preacher Marius (Terry Edward Moore). In the course of one night, all three very strong personalities collide as they struggle with the question of whether the elderly Helen is still capable of taking care of herself.

Dee Maaske, Terry Edward Moore, Marya Sea Kaminski - Photo by Chris Bennion

As director, Leigh Silverman effectively zooms in on the character’s relationships to highlight the ever-evolving nature of friendship. Each performer is given their due time to develop and react. Dee Maaske’s Helen is the perfect blend of angelic youth and worn stubbornness. Maaske performs with a sincerity that enlivens every moment of tenderness. Marya Sea Kaminski’s Elsa is the definition of the headstrong modern feminist, and she is very proud of it. She somehow strikes a balance between brutal honesty and soft vulnerability. Terry Edward Moore’s Marius is as solid and multifaceted as the religious community he represents. Although moments come when he infuriates us, there are equally as many moments when he touches our hearts.

With so many vivid and accurate pictures of the real Owl House, it would have been easy for the set to have literally outshone the production. Rachel Hauck successfully created a space full of wonder and beauty without upstaging the equally shining performances going on within it. Mary Louise Geiger’s lighting brilliantly enhanced the live candlelight without being over the top. The gradual visualization of the sunset in the background is so subtle and natural that you will temporarily forget you are indoors.

The Road to Mecca is a touching drama that at times may break your heart, but will find a way to mend it—and even make it sparkle. It is a wonderful story about life, and the beauty we can create if we finally decide to live it fully.

Review by Gwynn Garland

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