|Valentino Herrera, Mattico David, Denmo Ibrahim|
Maya Nazzal, Abraham Makany Photo: Kevin Berne
By Heather Raffo
Directed by Kate Bergstrom
Marin Theatre Company, Marin
with Golden Thread Productions
Extended to Febrary 9, 2020
Reviewed by Christine Okon
A refugee is a restless soul, caught in the gray space between a lost home and an uncertain future. The search for the sense of place, both physical and psychic, is at the heart of “Noura,” Heather Raffo’s heartfelt play about Christian Iraqi refugees who fled war-shattered Mosul to establish a new life in New York City.
It is Christmas Eve in a New York apartment dominated by a huge, festive tree that magnifies the claustrophobic space designed by Adam Rigg. New passports have arrived in the mail for Noura, her husband Tareq and their young son Yazen bearing the Americanized names of Nora, Tim, and Alex. Becoming an American citizen does not quell Noura’s ache for her homeland and culture, and despite Tareq’s desire to celebrate, an agitated Noura escapes to the patio to relish a cigarette and some alone time in the falling snow.
|Denmo Ibrahim Photo: Kevin Berne|
Denmo Ibrahim creates a powerful Noura, a vibrant, intelligent, conflicted, and passionate woman who paces like a tiger in a cage she will never get used to. She does not share the easy optimism of Tareq (Mattico David) who tries to make the best of his new life as a way to counter the horror of his past as a wartime surgeon. David is convincing as a man who aims to be a good father, husband and American citizen while still exhibiting old cultural attitudes toward female passion. As Yazen, Valentino Herrera plays a typical American kid who has no notion of previous suffering while he plays video games.
All of the pieces are in place for a seemingly happy life, but Noura is torn. Christmas dinner guests arrive, including Rafa’a (Abraham Makany) who is in love with Noura, and a newly arrived Mosul refugee named Maryam (Maya Nazzal) who is tough, self-assured, and pregnant, and to whom Noura gives special attention, the reasons for which are disclosed later. Trained as an architect, Noura tries to create a livable structure for her life and those involved in it, but the foundation is as ephemeral as memory. We don’t totally understand what Noura wants, but we feel her frustration.
|Abraham Makany and Denmo Ibrahim Photo: Kevin Berne|
Expertly directed by Kate Bergstrom, “Noura” is a powerful, moving glimpse of a woman trapped by custom and limitations of society and culture. The heart of this production is Denmo Ibrahim, depicting a woman who cannot bring herself to rest where she is, stranded between the past and future. This plight of the refugee is mirrored in other productions by the coproduction company Golden Thread Productions, focusing on Middle Eastern plays.
Although the overall effect is moving, “Noura” ends with an uneven pace as surprise questions and resolutions are introduced. Still, it is a very enlightening revelation of refugees and how they deal with challenges to their resilience and connection.
"Noura," written by Heather Raffo, directed by Kate Bergstrom. Marin Theatre Company and Golden Thread Productions, Marin, through February 9, 2020. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mattico David* - Tareq/Tim
Valentino Bertolucci Herrera - Yazen/Alex
Denmo Ibrahim* - Noura/Nora
Abraham Makany* - Rafa’a
Maya Nazzal - Maryam
* Member of Actors Equity Association
Heather Raffo Playwright
Kate Bergstrom Director
Liz Matos* Stage Manager
Adam Rigg Scenic Designer
Kate Boyd Lighting Designer
Anna Oliver Costume Designer
Nihan Yesil Sound Designer
Nakissa Etemad Dramaturg
Torange Yeghiazarian Cultural Consultant
Lynne Soffer Dialect Coach
+ Member, United Scenic Artists
^ Member, Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers