Najla Said’s Rachel is the daughter and activist who has witnessed the tragedies of war firsthand – most particularly with her friend, Admira (Jenny Leona), who has been a victim of sexual violence and finds herself pregnant with child and no place to go. Rachel makes it her responsibility to ensure that Admira is safe and cared for and when she comes back to her home, and has specific instructions as to how her family will treat her friend while she stays with them. The arrangements bring on disagreements between Rachel and her poet father, George Bartenieff’s Robert Blaze, as they have lived very different lifestyles over the past few years. Rachel has been directly in the line of fire and has a right to be overcautious, while her father has been living in a safe and luxurious space and doesn’t seem to have the same view on reality.
Said delivers a powerful and unforgettable performance as she advocates for women who have been victims of violence and will not stand for injustice. She is brave, strong, and not afraid to raise her voice, or allow others to influence her opinion. Often growing impatient with her father, Rachel is extremely protective (which she has every right to be) but seems like she could afford to have some tolerance for her aging father.
Evangeline Johns’ Sybil, sister of Robert, offers a lovely picture of empathy and love. She tailors to the physical and emotional needs of the refugee, knowing the pain she has endured and strives to make her as comfortable and safe as possible. Leona’s Admira provides gradual insight into the events that have impacted her character, appearing quiet and reserved when first meeting the family and then vigorously opening up as random occurrences remind her of the trauma she experienced.
While it is apparent that the complexities of these relationships run extremely deep, it is at times, hard to follow the backstory or history behind the deep-rooted animosity, as in the case of the father and his lover. P.J. Brennan’s Jamie is also a young journalist and seems to spend quite a bit of time at the home with family causing the family many quarrels. Watching their intense conflicts play out on stage, prompts further questions about the exact issues that plague them and is a bit baffling to take in. Though allowing for plenty of time to tell this story, two hours without an intermission is quite exhausting as it requires focus and stamina to follow a plot as deep as this – without any breaks to pause in between.
The scenic design by Michaelangelo DeSerio relies on classic and somewhat elaborate pieces of furniture to embody a more affluent and beautiful atmosphere that contrasts with the terrifying and devastating circumstances of war occurring only a few hundred miles away. Sally-Ann Parsons and Carisa Kelly’s costume design is made up of simple and loose-fitting apparel that is very appropriate for an island setting, but for Brennan, presents a bit of a distraction, as his tunic exposes a pair of shorts and a t-shirt underneath that could have been concealed better.
This important play reflects much of the violence and inequality that our world is battling in every region today. Showcasing conflict in different ways and from different viewpoints and spotlights, The Beekeeper’s Daughter fulfills its responsibility in bringing the vital issues to life and demanding attention.
The Beekeeper’s Daughter (through June 26, 2016)
Theater for the New City and Theater Three Collaborative
Theater for the New City, 155 1st Avenue, between 9th and 10th Streets, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-254-1109 or visit http://www.smarttix.com
Running time: two hours without an intermission