FRINGE REVIEW – Silken Veils, CalArts Festival Theatre

*****

1420 (1505) until 21st (not 16th) @ Venue 13

By Emily P

A panicky and flustered young American woman, Daria, locks herself in a cupboard in a state of distress. She is in a wedding dress. What has caused her to doubt the vows from which she has just fled seems to be her unresolved relationship with her cultural heritage; her personal past and her Persian-American identity. Her concerned groom calling to her through the door expresses his love and acceptance of her through reciting classic Sufi poetry, specifically, the medieval love verses of Rumi.
In doing so he pulls her reluctantly back to her childhood in Iran and to the mother who taught her those same lyrics of universal love. We travel with her and experience her memories of revolutionary Tehran, and the tragedy of how her family fell apart leaving her with the painful knowledge of the destructive power of love.
 To tell this tale the Californian company use a blend of shadow silhouettes, marionette puppetry and digital animation to great effect. Daria’s interaction with her puppet family physically and with her shadow parents verbally is all excellently accomplished. There are some lovely moments – such as the model scenery of a gathering of Khomeini’s supporters or Daria’s puppet mother’s initial dance.

There is little in this tale of a middle class Iranian family who, like so many others, are torn apart by the consequences of the Green Revolution, which has not been told before. It is the theme of love which takes us on the real journey here. And the great achievement of the production is to give Rumi’s verse both a modern and ageless context for its fragrant illumination of human existence.
The most moving moment comes in the mother’s farewell to the daughter a blend of performance and words which drew out the first tear of the festival for this reviewer. When the resolution of the narrative comes all four performers are reduced to shadows behind their veil backdrop but their hearts have been disclosed by the silken words of Iran’s great lyricist and we, like Daria, will know the great redemptive and unifying power of love.

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