"Familiar" at Yale Repertory

By Marlene S. Gaylinn

No matter what your cultural traditions, if your daughter is about to be married you will surely be “familiar” with the wedding preparations and the stress it can cause -- particularly if it’s a mixed-marriage and if you want things to go smoothly. “Familiar” is therefore the title chosen for this very amusing World Premiere by Danai Gurira who wants us to realize that no matter the differences, “my people...are your people too.”

Because the author was born in the United States and grew up in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) we are able to get a rare view of what life is like for an educated, African family that has joined the professional ranks of American society. Hence, set designer, Brian Hickey has appropriately placed the family in an upper class, attractive, modern home complete with full kitchen appliances and comfortable living room with built-in TV.

Without giving too much away, “life,” as presented by the writer in rich tones of voice and music, is colorful, emotional, and very interesting. Under the direction of Rebecca Taichman, the actors play off each other nicely, and their speech is enhanced with authentic accents coached by Beth McGuire. The wonderful, acting ensemble consists of: “Marvelous” (Saidah Ekulona), “Donald” (Harvy Blanks), “Nayasha (Shyko Amos), “Margaret” (Patrice Chevannes), “Tendikayi” (Cherise Boothe), “Annie” (Kimberly Scott), “Chris” (Ross Marquand) and “Brad” (Joe Tippett).Thanks to composer Somi, we hear the pleasant tones of an African instrument called a “mbira.” And, through the commanding voice of the formidable “Aunt Annie,” we witness a “roora,” in which the families of the bride and groom negotiate the bride’s dowry -- minus the required cow.

While the play needs to be tightened, we enjoyed this unusual, highly spirited production.

Plays to:  Feb. 21 -- Tickets: 203-432-1234
This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” February/2015

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