In a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and the earth so that the sun is partially or fully covered.  Whereas a solar eclipse is considered a spectacular phenomenon of nature, it can also be perceived as a supernatural or frightening event, especially when the sun disappears in the middle of the day and the sky suddenly goes dark.

In Liberia, a country on the west coast of Africa, whose name means “land of liberty,” the women of that nation have been eclipsed by the terrible circumstances of war, yet they rise up to let their powerful light shine.  Danai Gurira has written an astonishing work “Eclipsed” that is seeing the illumination of day at New Haven’s Yale Repertory Theatre until Saturday, November 14.  The playwright traveled to Liberia in 2007 to hear firsthand the women’s stories and then to let these African women speak through their varied voices.

Their tales collide and coalesce as four women and a peace worker struggle with their relationship to one man, “husband” to four and commanding officer and warlord of a tiny territory in the war torn country.  The year is 2003 and Charles Taylor is president, with a reign of terror and death in his path.  Girls and women are routinely stolen from their homes, raped and given as a trophy to the heads of each warring faction.  Gurira focuses her attention on one such camp and on the “girls” who are forced into adulthood by that brutality.

Wife #1 heads the household and handles all the cooking and domestic tasks.  She has already watched her baby be killed and is now unable to give birth to more children, due to the obscene acts she endured.  Wife #2 has sought survival by becoming a soldier, aligning herself with the very men who demoralized her.  Pregnant wife #3 has quickly recognized the role she must play to exist another day while wife #4, with a little education, is torn between which path to take to guarantee salvation.  The fifth woman represents the thousands of women who put their lives on the line to campaign for peace, to stop the bloodshed, even if it means dying in the process.

Pascale Armand, Stacey Sargeant, Adepero Oduye, Zainab Jah and Shona Tucker are magnificent as this quintet of females who defy their captors by any means possible, sisters under the skin, who band together to survive another day, and to lead their country down a new avenue of hope.  Liesl Tommy directs this insightful and powerful drama that sheds light on a dark continent, a land that was started as a colony in 1821 by America as a place for newly freed slaves to emigrate to for a new start.

Today Charles Taylor is facing a war crimes tribunal at The Hague and a woman educated at Harvard, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is the first female head of state in this African nation.

For tickets ($35-67), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street at York, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees most Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Let playwright Danai Gurira cast a glaring light on the amazing stories of five women determined to survive over incredibly difficult circumstances, each in her own unique way.

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