Author Archive for: ‘KedarAdour’

A “portmanteau” becomes a deus ex machina in Her Portmanteau at A.C.T.’s Strand.

Adiaha (Aneisa Hicks) argues with Iniabasi (Eunice Woods) while Abasiama (Kimberly Scott, left) watches on in Mfoniso Udofia’s Her Portmanteauperforming at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater now through Sunday, March 31, 2019. Photo Credit Kevin Berne.

HER PORTMANTEAU: Drama by Mfoniso Udofia. Directed by Victor Malana Maog. American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.), Strand Theatre, 1127 Market Street, San Francisco, CA. 415-749-2228 or online at February 15, 2019 – March 31, 2019.

A “portmanteau” becomes a deus ex machina in Her Portmanteau at A.C.T.’s Strand.

Rating: ★★★★☆

The word portmanteau was coined by Lewis Carroll “words he invented for “Jabberwocky” on notion of two meanings packed up into one word.” In Mfoniso Udofia’s  play there are more than suggestions a denotation for an actual piece of luggage and a connotation of the emotional “baggage” carried within. That emotional baggage becomes the deus ex machina that spills forth late in this classical Aristotelian structure brought forth in a very modern play.

There is a distinctive beginning, end and denouement that will leave you engrossed trying the fit the pieces of the familial intricacies of the three characters. Conflict enters the first scene and progresses to a climax before there is resolution.  Young Nigerian woman Iniabasi (Eunice Woods) is furious that her mother has not arrived to meet her on her arrival at JFK airport and is unwilling to accept the reasons that Adiaha (Aneisa Hicks) her half-sister is there instead.

The original plan was for Abasiama (Kimberley Scott) to pick up daughter Inibasi and take her to her home in Massachusetts. Inclement weather has thwarted that plan and all end up in Adiaha’s small New York City Flat. Before Abasiama arrives author Udofia fleshes out the distinctive characteristics of the two sisters with exceptional yet simple dialog and non-response buttressing the anger in Iniabasi and eluding to the their cultural and language differences.

There is a suggestion of Jean Paul Sarte’s play No Exit where their interaction can be either heaven or hell. With the arrival Abasiama the complex interlocking relationship unfolds but with bits and pieces requiring you the audience to be astute since some of the dialog between Iniabasi and Abasiama is Nigerian. 

The ubiquitous unopened portmanteau shares a conspicuous spot down stage right. Be certain that the audience is waiting for that pivotal moment. How and who will open it is a question that arises from the second scene on. Because of the importance to the denouement author Udofia has selected Abasiama to have that honor. Udofia obviously is well versed in play construction and has written a plausible reason for the two sisters to head off-stage.

The “baggage” and computer inter action through Skype with persons in Nigeria nicely wrap up the evening with a standing ovation.  Victor Malana Maog’s direction allows humor to soften the conflict adding balance to family turmoil. Eunice Woods makes you feel her internal anger laced with confusion through her body language, facial expressions and incisive dialog. Audience favorite is obviously Anesia Hicks playing the fully Americanized Adiaha and you will easily believe that she smashes glasses to assuage anger. Kimberly Scott has her greatest moment on stage taking the significant pieces of “baggage” from the opened portmanteau and reacting to them.

The set by David Isreal Reynoso is a realistic marvel of a modest New York City bachelor unit that is enhanced by Jake Rodriguez’s sound design. Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.

CAST: (in alphabetical order): Aneisa J. Hicks as Adiaha Ufot, Kimberly Scott as Abasiama Ufot, and Eunice Woods as Iniabasi Ekpeyong.

CREATIVE TEAM: David Israel Reynoso (Scenic Designer), Sarita Fellows (Costume Designer), Yael Lubetzky (Lighting Designer), and Jake Rodriguez (Sound Designer).

ADDED NOTE: “The playwright is well into writing her nine-play Ufot Family Cycle, following several generations of one Nigerian American family in intimate portraits of different key moments with impressively varied styles. Now San Francisco gets a chance to binge-watch the fourth and fifth installments in the cycle, when American Conservatory Theater presents “Her Portmanteau” and Magic Theatre gives “In Old Age” its world premiere in overlapping runs, with one play starting the weekend the other play is scheduled to close.”

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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