A World Premiere.
By Charles Smith.
Directed by Chuck Smith.
At the Goodman Theatre, Chicago.
This intense drama has all the elements of greatness: fine writing, worthy topic, and excellent performances.
Kudos to the Goodman Theatre for their help in developing Chuck Smith masterpiece drama: Objects In The Mirror. I can’t remember a more intense and engrossing drama. Chuck Smith has given us several wonderful plays such as Black Star Line, Knock Me a Kiss, and Free Man of Color – each are history plays about the black experience in the world. His latest work, now in a rivetingly excellent production at the Goodman theatre, Objects In The Mirror is his best to date!. This work is based on the true experiences of Shedrick Yarkpai, an actor living in Australia and a former immigrant from West Africa. Charles Smith met Shedrick Yarkpai when he played in Smith’s Free Men of Color in Adelaide, Australia. The actor and the playwright became friends and, over time, Shedrick Yarkpai told Smith his story of his more than ten year journey from war-torn Liberia as well as migrant camps in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire to Australia.
Charles Smith’s trimmed script chronicles Shedrick Yarkpai’s (Daniel Kyri) adventures that sent him from his mother, Luopu Workolo (Lily Mojekwu) to travel with his uncle, John Workolo (Allen Gilmore) and his cousin, Zaza Workolo (Breon Arzell) from Liberia to camps in Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea and eventually Australia. Sheer survival to and from each camp was perilous between 1989 and 2003. We witness Shedrick being aided my his cousin Zaza and his uncle John – a smart, fixer, and man-of-the-world survivor who’ll seize any opportunity to get his ‘family’ out of harm’s way. Zaza leaves the group to become a teen soldier and is killed. John uses Zaza’s identity for Shedrick. That becomes a psychological burden that will haunt Shedrick for years.
Director Chuck Smith (no relation to the playwright) has a fast paced drama tightly presented with the aid of the fine sets (designed by Riccardo Hernandez). He has a worthy cast that includes Breson Arzell (Zaza), Lily Mojekwu (Luopo Workolo9 – the commanding mother and the intensely brilliant nuanced performance from Daniel Kyri as Shedrick Kennedy Yarkpai. This young man is amazing as he inhabits Shedrick’s life with all the psychological trauma of conflicting identities.
But the character of Jon Workolo was made a most memorable and controversial character by the fabulous performance from Allen Gilmore. He is doing his finest performance that I’ve witnessed as John the ultimate survivor, family patriarch, and control freak. Gilmore and Kyri each give award-worthy performances here. Ryan Kiley, the Australia lawyer Rob Mosher was convincing.
One of the most powerful scenes in Objects In The Mirror happens when Mosher visits John. Mosher wants to reassure John that he can help Shedrick (and the entire family legal) get his name changed from Zaza with hurting his Australian status. John doesn’t trust anyone, especially Mosher, since John believes that Mosher has improper designs on Shedrick. This scene is powerful as we see the depth of John’s commitment to his family. We get clues about John’s motives and Mosher’s intent.
Without giving away more, let me state that the story’s resolution is plausible and believable especially as Daniel Kyri presents. it. Objects In The Mirror is a worthy drama that puts a face on African refugees. We see the trauma, both physical and emotional suffered and we see the determination and the human spirit that motivates the survivors. We see the price they pay for their choices and we see how survivors can thrive in a peaceful safe environment. Objects In The Mirror is a polished, intense drama wonderfully directed and beautifully acted; it is one of the best world premiere seen on a Chicago stage in years! Don’t miss this gem!
At the Goodman theatre. 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. IL, call312-443-3800. www.goodmantheatre.org, tickets $20 – $75, Tuesday, May 23rd at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays 7:30 p.m., Thursdays 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Fridays 8 p.m., Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m., Sundays 2 and 7:30 p.m. (no evenings on 5/28 and 6/4), running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission