A local Liberian warlord's women in a bare hut in Eclipsed at the Golden Theater are called wife #1, #3, and #4, but as written by Danai Gurira, they could not be more individual if you knew them by their mother-given names. Unseen, when he comes by, "C.O." beckons them. Each returns to the room, hollow eyed, and sponges off her private parts. #2 has taken arms: gun toting and tough, she bears rice and vitriol. They only way to keep the warring men off, is to fight. This all woman production, directed by Liesl Tommy, is feminist, empowering in the proverbial world gone mad. Finding humor and heart in the most atrocious circumstance, this transplant from the Public Theater is essential theater.
Lupita Nyong'o is #4, leading Eclipsed's superb ensemble. Reading to the others from a biography about Bill Clinton, she calls Monica Lewinsky the American president's #2, and the wives discuss how his #1 might be handling that. #1 (Saycon Sengbloh) has been captive so long, kidnapped and raped as they all have been, does not remember her age. The hilarious #3 (Pascale Armand) is a pregnant child, moving about with elastic ease. Feisty and fearsome #4 (Zainab Jah), a menacing presence in cool jeans with a harsh point of view, may have the only real out from this hell, even as Rita (Akosua Busia), a peace broker in white seems like an angel from another planet, offering an alternative freedom.
If the Oscars are too white, Eclipsed joins a growing list of Broadway productions featuring first-rate black talent, and doubling that with gifted women. For opening night, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Alfre Woodard, Tovah Feldshuh, Adepero Oduye, Tonya Lee, Joel Grey, Corey Stoll, among many others joined the celebration at Gotham, the former spacious bank chockablock with wellwishers. The night before her own Lincoln Center opening in The Royale, Montego Glover noted the exceptional work of this female cast. She's the only girl in her new play, and proud.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.