Splendour at the Aurora requires strict attention of the audience

By Kedar Adour, For All Events, July 1st, 2017


(l-r)Denmo Ibrahim as Kathryn, Sam Jackson as Gilma, Lorri Holt as Micheleine, Mia Tagano as Genevieve in Aurora Theatre’s Splendour by Abi Morgan

SPLENDOUR: Drama by Abi Morgan’s. Directed by Barbara Damashek. Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA. (510) 843-4822 or at www.auroratheatre.org. June 23-July 23, 2017

Splendour at the Aurora requires strict attention of the audience. Rating: ★★★☆☆1/2

Aurora that prides itself as the “thinking man’s” theater closes its 25th season with a nonlinear play constructed with repeated scenes/dialog inserting verbalized thoughts of the characters as monologs. These interjections are the playwright’s conceit for this her early play that had its world premiere 17 years ago in Dublin before a highly successful run at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2015. Since that time Abi Morgan has become a famous feminist script writer for films and TV winning multiple awards.

She lists the time as “The Millennium” and the place as an unnamed country probably in Eastern
Europe.  It is set in a lavish home of a dictator. A photojournalist, Kathryn (Denmo Ibrahim), has come to take photos of the unnamed dictator.  She accompanied by a scruffy interpreter Gilma (Sam Jackson) and is met by the dictator’s wife Micheleine (Lorri Holt). Later when the dictator has not arrived Micheleine sends for her best friend Genevieve (Mia Tagano) and the cast of this four hander is complete.

Be forewarned that this is not light entertainment and it is only during the middle of the evening that it starts to come together leading to a taut final scene.  It is skillfully staged and acted making it worth the wait.

There is very little action and the author is dependent on the internal monologs to reveal individual characteristics loaded with animosity and conflict.  Morgan shifts the emotional perspectives with scenes that repeat back and forth each amplifying the personal conflict. Phone calls become dangerous. A simple landscape painting on the wall is really a non-verbal protest against the regime. The 35 year old friendship is unmasked as nonexistent. Gilma’s interpretations are inaccurate and self-serving and when Kathyrn complains that she does not understand there is the prophetic line, “You do not need to understand (words) to understand.”

Barbara Damashek keeps a tight rein on her actors and they respond brilliantly. Lorri Holt’s self-assured posture of a dictator’s wife living in luxury owning zebra skin handbags and shoes is a brilliant contrast to the eventual emotional collapse yet maintaining dignity.  Denmo Ibrahim becomes believable as the hard-nosed photographer and her clashes with the devious Gilma feel real. Sam Jackson’s Gilma adds humor as the self-serving interpreter. Although the dialog is all in English Mia Tagano does a superb job as the so called friend with the hidden animosity.

Michael Locher’s luxurious set is greatly enhanced by the sound (Matt Stines) and light (Kurt Landisman).  All this give Abi Morgan’s complicated/brilliant play construction and character study an added boost making this a should see play.

Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.

CAST: Lorri Holt as Micheleine; Denmo Ibrahim as Kathryn; Mia Tagano as Genevieve; and Sam Jackson as Gilma.

CREATIVE STAFF: Fumiko Bielefeldt, costumes; Kurt Landisman, lights; Michael Locher, set; Matt Stines, sound

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.