REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams


By Danai Gurira

eclipsed by gurira

Directed by Hallie Gordon

At Northlight Theatre, Skokie

Sad effects of civil war on women deftly displayed in Eclipsed

Peopled by a cast of local Chicago female African-American actors, Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed unfolds as a poignant look at the lasting effects of civil war on the female prisoners forced to be ‘wives’ of a  rebel commander in the Liberian civil war. Playwright Danai Gurira presents a portrait of the role of women both in modern Liberian society and in a rebel army camp. These women are sexual and housekeeping servants who must succumb to the every whim of ‘their man.’

eclipsed by gurira

We meet the commander’s wives: Wife # 1: Helena ( steady work by Alena Arenas) is the  ‘chief’ wife in charge  of the household. She is  the ‘old wife’ having been with the commander for near 8 years yet she is only 25 years old! There is Wife # 3: the 19 year old Bessie (Leslie Ann Shepard) who love wigs and is with child. She is a precocious teen rules by pure emotion.  The new wife, #4 The Girl (Paige Collins) is a 15 year old girl recently captured who can read making her unique. She is taken under Helena’s wing as she adjusts to life as a slave-wife.

eclipsed by gurira

Much of the first act is a slice-of-life glimpse into the drudgery of captivity. We grow to emphasize with these women. The visits by  former Wife # 2: Rita (Tamberla Perry) shakes the status quo of the household as we meet the AK-47 carrying ‘soldier’ who has become both a rebel warrior and a liberated woman free of servitude. The jean dressed intense soldier flaunts her gun power as she tries to recruit Wife # 4 into joining her as a soldier.

eclipsed by gurira

The household is visited by the Women’s Peace League representative Maima (Penelope Walker) who tries to make sure the wives are treated well. She has a hidden agenda that becomes important in act two.

Eclipsed is a quietly powerful and poignant work that puts a face on the horrible role of women in a war environment. Playwright Gurira demonstrates the only viable alternative for these woman – either become sexual slave to a commander  or his troops or grab an AK-47, start killing,  usurping your power and control. Quite a choice. The story hinges on how The Girl  struggles with her newly gained power as a soldier when a truce is declared. We see the scary future awaiting these women that includes either staying with the commander, going to a refugee camp to staying a soldier. We hope the woman will make the right decisions for themselves.

Eclipsed is a quietly moving play filled with rich African accents that demonstrates the resilience and strength of the human spirit. Alena Arenas and Penelope Walker lead a worthy cast.


Tom Williams

At Northlight Theatre, 9501 N. Skokie, Skokie, IL, call 847-673-6300,, tickets $30 – $50, Tuesday at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2;30 & 7 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through February 20, 2011

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