Show: “Objects in the Mirror”
Company: Goodman Theatre
Venue: Goodman Theatre
Die Roll: 11
Let me begin by saying that this show is the best production that I’ve seen so far in 2017. It’s scope and scale are epic, and though Charles Smith’s “Objects in the Mirror” addresses the struggles of one family unit, the story told is so much bigger than that of just a handful of people. This production, directed by Chuck Smith (not the same guy as the aforementioned Charles, nor of any relation), only has five actors who often seem dwarfed by the massive, yet simple scenery (designed by Riccardo Hernandez). As I continue to digest what I saw on the Goodman’s stage, I keep returning to the set and how it informed the action of the play. The set itself was simple in that it included very few elements and there were no raised platforms or intricately built pieces, or ornate decorations. Yet, every piece was immense. A large and imposing ceiling/roof loom large over segments of the play that take place in the present (much of the show is in flashback). A massive, retractable rear wall facilitates projections, as well as a border that rises up from ground level to the infinite heavens. Often a bare stage creates a sense of vastness that is difficult to overcome because a lone actor in that gaping space seems ever so small; a tiny force against insurmountable odds.
Shedrick Kennedy Yarkpai (Daniel Kyri) is the individual most often confronted by the outward forces in this story. After all, he is the tale’s protagonist. We meet him as a survivor of a decade-long struggle to be free of the violence and oppression that has torn many western African nations apart. He now resides in Australia. He is on a search for meaning in his life and for who he really is. As part of that, he revisits his life story up to that point. In flashback we meet his crafty trickster uncle (Allen Gilmore), his mother (Lily Mojekwu), and his cousin (Breon Arzell). These are the people who share Shedrick’s world. And they are the ones who make it possible for him to escape the dangers of a country that kills off its young men by fighting civil wars with child armies.
Charles Smith has written a piece that makes the reality of war ever-present and imposing. Shedrick is never sure of who he can trust, and in all likelihood, his uncle’s advice to trust no one is best applied. And yet, one wants to trust the people nearest to them. And the internal struggle of who to trust and how much is at the heart of this play. The narrative struggle of the journey toward freedom is matched in intensity by the personal journey taken by Shedrick as he struggles with self-identity and conscience. Can Shedrick trust his uncle? Can he trust his own mother? Can he trust himself? For that matter, can anyone trust anyone else ever?
Chuck Smith’s powerfully simple staging gives the more dynamic and complex moments of the play a gigantic blank canvas upon which to create an overall picture that is both brilliant and dark. The cast rises to the task of telling a gripping and meaningful tale, always surrounded by the spirit that they are just a small part of something so much larger, but never being defeated by the overall massiveness of their troubles. This is a piece that must be seen.
TEN WORD SUMMARY: Trust in this one thing: You should see this play.
DICE RATING: d20 – “One Of The Best”