Night Over Erzinga
A compelling night of storytelling
|Silk Road Rising presents|
|Night Over Erzinga|
Review by Katy Walsh
Silk Road Rising presents Night Over Erzinga. Alice and Jimmy are a young married couple. They are raising a daughter in post-depression USA. What make them different from any other couple? They survived the genocide of their Armenian homeland. Alice is haunted by the real nightmares of her past. Jimmy lives with the unknown fate of his loved ones. A tortured Alice tries to assimilate into her adopted country through her music. Although Jimmy chases the American dream of monetary success, he wants to keep his wife rooted in the ways of the old country. He won’t let Alice sing in public. As time passes, not dealing with their shared realities impacts their daughter, Ava. As an adult, Ava is trapped in ignorance and betrayal. Her fear will separate her from the family. At its best, Night Over Erzinga compels with moments of gut-punching, eye-opening, heart-ripping storytelling. At its worse, Night Over Erzinga flounders into a Desilu Productions’ backstory.
The first act uses powerful flashbacks to establish the tragic relationship of the Armenian-American couple. Playwright Adrianna Sevahn Nichols hits it hard with relational, cultural and mental anguish. The intensity is a brilliant mosaic of early twentieth century immigration mayhem and homeland insecurity. The second act almost grinds to a halt as the next generation goes domestic. Ava deals with breaking into showbiz and falling for a hot-blooded Columbian. It feels like a completely different play. Although the final scene revisits the Armenian horrors, the historical atrocity bookends 45-minutes of scenes that unfold like a Lifetime movie. The extended detour from the main focus results in a watered down finish. The tragic ending should evoke uncontrollable sobs but, by the time it arrives, all I can muster is a ‘hmmmm.’
Despite the oddly concocted story, the acting is exceptional. Director Lisa Porters has the versatile cast morph into different generations of the same people. The talented ensemble tackle the decades long story with zest and sensitivity. In the lead, Sandra Delgado (young Alice/Ava) is outstanding. As Alice, she effectively goes back and forth from romantic dreamer to discontent housewife to asylum resident. Later, she plays Alice’s daughter with spunk and bitterness. With big expressive eyes and often saying nothing, Diana Simonzadeh (older Alice) haunts the stage. Simonzadeh perfectly illustrates a woman trapped in her own pain and hope. Playing multiple parts and using multiple accents, the multi-talented Michael Salinas gets huge laughs for his small roles.
The central element of the set, designed by Lee Keenan, is a magnificent oversize tree with pieces of materials tied to its branches. The imagery symbolizes the strength of the family tree rooted in ancestry. The symmetry of the tree is a strong visual of generations of family stories. There is a poignant story here, but conservation is key. Night Over Erzinga branches too far out from the trunk. A little trimming will make for a solid, long-standing tree, and powerful story, for future generations.
Night Over Erzinga continues through November 11th at Pierce Hall, Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington (map), with performances Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 3 and 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $40, and are available online through OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at SilkRoadRising.org. (Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes, includes an intermission)
behind the scenes
Lisa Portes (director); Azar Kazemi (asst. director); Caitlin Duerinck (production manager); Kyle Gettelman (tech director); Matt McMullen* (stage manager); Elsa Hiltner (costumes); Sarah Hughey (lighting); Lee Keenan (set design); Peter Storms (sound design); Neal Ryan Shaw (dramaturg); Sarah Ibis (program book editor); Corey Pond (house manager); Malik Gillani, Jamil Khoury (producers)
* denotes member, Actors Equity