Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Handbagged, Familiar, Aubergine, and The Great Society

Dahlia Azama and Heather Raffo
Photo by Scott Suchman
Noura, Heather Raffo's play now in its world premiere production at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre in Washington, provides a window into a world that is unfamiliar to most audiences, centered on an Iraqi Christian couple living in New York City trying to balance their past and future.

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 inside—nowhere 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
February 6th - March 11th, 2018
By Heather Raffo
Noura: Heather Raffo
Tareq/Tim: Nabil Elouahabi
Rafa'a: Matthew David
Maryam: Dahlia Azama
Yazen/Alex: Gabriel Brumberg
Recorded Voices: Ni Qasey
Directed by Joanna Settle
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or

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