Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Raffo, who also plays the title role, is an American woman of Iraqi descent who based the relationships in her play on the Arab-American women she met in workshops she conducted in New York City. Her theatrical inspiration was Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House, scandalous in its time for showing a wife and mother breaking out of the roles society expects her to play. She created the work in collaboration with director Joanna Settle, with whom she has worked for more than a decade.
Noura and her husband Tareq (Nabil Elouahabi) left Mosul, Iraq, eight years earlier to live in New York City; they have just become U.S. citizens. They've worked hard to build a new life, with an American-born son (Gabriel Brumberg) who prefers playing with his PlayStation to more traditional games, but some things don't quite fit: Tareq was a surgeon in Iraq but no longer; and Noura was formerly an architect and now is a teacher. Their friend Rafa'a (Matthew David), another doctor from Mosul, is a Muslim working to retain what he can of their history; he describes how the Islamic State destroyed the possessions they left behind.
It's Christmastime and Noura has opened her home to Maryam (Dahlia Azama), a college-age refugee also from Mosul. The two women of different generations find little common ground in their attitudes; Noura worries that Maryam takes for granted the advances that women took years to achieve, and is angry at what she considers Maryam's reckless behavior at a time when both Iraqi and American societies are becoming more fragmented. The two women's impassioned performances anchor the production, while Brumberg has a sweet natural presence.
Andrew Lieberman's scenic design adds to the dreamlike feeling of the production, showing a house with a curved exterior wall and a single large room insidenowhere to hide except by walking outside. Masha Tsimring's lighting design and Obadiah Eaves' sound design add to the sense of unease that underlies the characters' search for a safe place to live.
Shakespeare Theatre Company