Friday, January 24, 2020

Noura ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Heather Raffo's "Noura" is a drama whose story cuts straight to the heart. Noura is an Iraqi refugee woman living in New York with her husband Tareq and small boy Yazen. She is slowly losing her mind over this unanswerable question: “How do I hold on and let go at the same time?”

This is the ultimate issue for any refugee. How do you keep what is truly irreplaceable from your old life while still trying desperately to fit in to a brand new one? And what if you left because that old world had become impossibly toxic and dangerous for you and your family?

Noura and her family are Christians who have emigrated from Mosul. After eight years, they have finally received their American passports: they are now Tim, Nora and Alex. They have a Play Station. They are Americans.

But then Noura's distant relative, Maryam, an unmarried young woman who is six months pregnant, shows up in the apartment. Her unwed pregnancy unleashes old-world indignation from Noura and the rest of her family. Even as this young woman explains that everyone she ever knew in Mosul has been murdered by ISIS, including her parents and the rest of her family, that they have even slit the throats of the nuns in the convent where Maryam had taken refuge, even as she tells Noura of all these horrors that have made her cling to her unborn baby as the only thing she has left to love and fight for, the attitudes of the Iraqi men in the New York apartment will never change. She is pregnant with no husband. She must be a slut.

Denmo Ibrahim plays Noura. Like everyone else, she has a secret. Maryam (Maya Nazzal) is involved. Both Tareq (Mattico David) and their oldest friend from home Rafa'a (Abraham Makany) are perplexed about what to do. Plus, they are holding onto secrets as well. 

The show is full of surprises observed by Noura. When Maryam does not want tea, Noura asks, "Who can talk without tea?" She tells Maryam about the beauty of snow: "For once, no one notices you." There is a breathtaking scene where Noura layers a traditional head covering on her son. She does it slowly, with patience and grace. Not a pin drops in the audience during this entire scene.

What must we hold on to? What must we give up? This is a question for us all.

RATINGS: ☼  ☼  ☼  ☼

The ending could be pared down some, but this is a show for everyone to see. The San Francisco Theater Blog awards "Noura" Four Stars. We loved it. It will make you look at the world a little differently.

Marin Theater Company
397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley
EXTENDED through Feb. 9

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