KPFA theatre critic Richard Wolinsky reviews “Noura” by Heather Raffo, a co-production of Marin Theatre and Golden Thread, at Marin Theatre Company through Feb. 9, 2020.
Text of review (audio is slightly different).
The cost of war is always high. It’s high at the start, through violence, destruction and the death of soldiers and innocent civilians. It’s high later on through the rebuilding process, and it becomes higher still when, through unintended consequences, everything falls apart. That happened to Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities, surviving the American invasionand then succumbing to the horrors of the ISIS takeover.
When ISIS came in, Assyrian Christians were forced to leave their homes and their lives. Many came to America, and those exiled Iraqis are the subjects of Noura, a play by Heather Raffo, at Marin Theatre Company through February 9th, in a co-production with Golden Thread.
It’s Christmas, and Noura and her husband Tareq, have been living in New York City for the past eight years. They’re expecting a visit from Maryam, an orphan girl who grew up in a convent, whom Noura sponsored for school in America.
Tareq was a surgeon in Mosul but now can’t operate because his hands never stop shaking. Noura was an architect, but once in America, she stopped pursuing her profession. Because of all the upheaval, she’s no longer sure who she is. Iraqi? American? What is she? It’s driving her crazy, and she’s not making it easy on her husband, her young son, or their best friend, the muslim Rafa’a, whom Noura knew as a child growing up in Mosul.
And then when Maryamm shows up, she’s not at all what Noura expected.
What Heather Raffo has done, and done well, is show how deep the collateral damage of war can run. Noura and Tareq have a nice life, their son is fully American, but they are neither here nor there. Iraq can never leave them, though realistically they know they can never go back. Even if they could, the Mosul Noura knew is gone forever.
Denmo Ibrahim rules the stage as Noura, who wavers between being supportive of others, and anger that she’s lost control of what’s important.. Maya Narzai as the forthright Maryam and Mattico David as the supportive Tareq give equally strong performances, joined by Abraham Makany as Rafa’a.
For most of its running time, the play brilliantly lays out the full brunt of the family’s life as refugees. But then at the end, melodrama takes over. Every question is answered as a series of personal secrets are revealed. But really – there’s no need. In a political play, the political IS personal.
Noura by Heather Raffo, a co-production of Golden Thread and Marin Theatre Company plays at Marin Theatre Company thru February 9th. For more information you can go to Marin theatre.org. I’m Richard Wolinsky on Bay Area theatre for KPFA.