Noura: Drama by Heather Raffo . Directed by Kate Bergstrom. Marin Theatre Company (MTC), 397 Miller Ave | Mill Valley, CA. 415.388.5208 or marintheatre.org. In Association with Golden Thread Productions.
January 9 – February 2, 2020 (Extended to 2/9/2020)
Personal fallout of war in Iraq war haunts the MTC stage. Rating:
The generalities of the devastating war in Iraq are well known. Iraq-American Heather Raffo makes those generalities personal in her taut one act family drama Noura that is receiving a stunning production on the Marin Theatre Company (MTC) stage. The strength of Norua, her protagonist, has been suggested from Ibsen’s The Doll House without being stifled by a male dominated society. Noura’s challenge is lifting the burden of the cumulative past that has brought her and her family to a modest unfinished apartment in New York City. But she has not fully accepted the fact of Thomas Wolfe’s axioms that you may “Look Homeward, Angel” but “ You Can’t Go Home Again.” Noura cries out, “I don’t want to forget. I am trying disparately to remember who the hell I am.”
Noura/Nora (Denmo Ibrahim) has been trained as an architect in her native Iraq. She and her medical doctor husband Tareq/Tim (Mattico David) were forced to leave Mosel when the war tore their community apart. They immigrated to the United States eight years ago and made a living with jobs beneath their level of intelligence. Tareq is at the threshold of re-qualifying as a doctor but Nora remains at home still being creative with architectural designs that will never reach fruition. Their eight year old son Alex/Yazen (Valentino Bertolucci Herrera) has been born in America and is well adjusted youngster who desires a computer play station for Christmas.
The action takes place mostly in the kitchen of their unfinished apartment (magnificent atmospheric set by Emily Ritchie) on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Noura has been preparing a traditional feast for her expected guests. Those guests are Muslim Rafa’a (Abraham Makany) a long time level headed friend from Mosel and Maryam ( Maya Nazzal) an Iraqi orphan refugee attending Stanford University and who has been supported by Noura since her early years in a Catholic orphanage in Mosel. Noura has paid Maryam’s plane fare to attend the holiday celebration.
The arrival of Maryam unashamedly pregnant allows author Raffo to emphasize women’s rights in the face of controversy as well as to insert a devastating scene totally unexpected that sends gasps through the audience. Noura emotionally copes by secretly smoking and sneaking out to the snowstorm confronting the audience with her convoluted reflective thoughts “the loudest silence I have ever known.” These moments when she breaks the fourth wall adds depth to her internal angst and her everyday family dilemmas.
The relationship between Tareq/Tim and Noura/Nora is multilayered and he is both supportive and partially conflicted but they continue to have a strong bond. Mattico David gives thoughtful performance as a husband/partner and sounding board to the powerful performance by Denmo Ibrahim who has earned multiple accolades in other local performances. She grasps the nature of Noura/Nora and that alone makes this play a must see performance.
Added to Ibrahim’s brilliance are director Bergstrom’s control of the complicated action and the strong contemplative script further adding to the “must see” rating. Running time is about 90 minutes with an intermission.
CAST: Mattico David as Tareq/Tim; Valentino Bertolucci Herrera as Yazen/Alex; Denmo Ibrahim as Noura/Nora; Abraham Makany as Rafa’a; Maya Nazzal as Maryam.
CREATIVE TEAM: 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; Ahmed Ashour, Assistant Director; Brigid Ridge, PA/ASM; Goñi Montes, Graphic Illustrator (promotional artwork); Trevor Scott Floyd, Artistic Producer.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Family and friends gather for Christmas dinner. Ensemble (L-R): Yazen/Alex (Valentino Bertolucci Herrera), Tareq/Tim (Mattico David), Noura/Nora (Denmo Ibrahim), Maryam (Maya Nazzal), and Rafa’a (Abraham Makany). Photo credit: Kevin Berne