“When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him he calls it ferocity.” — George Bernard Shaw (from Megan Sandberg-Zakian’s director’s note)
The Convert, by award-winning playwright and actress Danai Gurira is a test of endurance, for both its actors and its audience. The compelling story of Jekesai baptized “Ester,” is similar to that of Shaw’s Pygmalion with a religious, continental, and darker twist. The play is set in South Africa in 1895— a young Shona girl (Adobuere Ebiama) is converting to Christianity in order to escape an arranged marriage. Forced into the middle of a cultural clash in this post-colonial world, she is eventually forced to pick between her family and her faith.
Lights up. Fifty minutes pass. Intermission. Lights back up. Fifty minutes pass. Intermission. Lights up once more. Fifty minutes pass. End of show.
The pre-show music is fast-paced, foreign-sounding-yet-akin-to-hip-hop, rhythmic music I can only assume is Zimbabwean. The music makes me want to move. I begin to move. I check myself. I turn to Zack, “It’s probably not a good idea to dance, is it?” He shakes his head no. I sit still.
Sitting in the audience, I count a cast of seven actors playing to a primarily white, middle-aged audience. I can see half of the audience members, as the play is performed tennis-court style, with the set stretched out between the towering levels of seats. From my perch in the top row, I can see the faces of two BU professors, my high school theatre teacher (coincidence), a playwright I had just introduced myself to, an actor/director man whom I’ve introduced myself to at least three times by now, and Conor Proft, who didn’t get a seat with us. To me, this is an array of people I know and can watch and see reactions towards the piece whether they be good or bad, disinterested or passionate, in agreement or no. But people are hard to read. I’m sure if I saw my own face across the space, I would have had a hard time reading it.
I won’t spoil the story, I encourage people to go see it to see the show. I believe that it is a well-written piece, performed by a talented and mesmerizing cast, and although it is long, I can’t imagine it being any shorter. I was enthralled. I was saddened. I was confused. As a Catholic, I am obsessed with seeing religiously themed theatre. As a woman, I love to see women stand their ground despite being beaten down. There were a couple of older ladies in the audience whose eyes fluttered shut towards the end of the second act, but they were quickly opened wide for the captivating scene work performed by the women of the cast during the third act. I connect to this piece, I can connect American politics to this piece, and despite set in a far away country a hundred years ago, it’s incredibly relevant to today.
The show runs until February 28th. Here’s the link to buy tickets:
Photography: A.R. Sinclair Photography