Sunday, June 11, 2023

"The Road to Mecca" ★★★ BANG

The Road to Mecca is lined with milk bottles and home-made statues. But Mecca is an afterthought. The real question is whether or not art can play an important role in moving along that road, and if there can ever be communication between those who march blindly down the middle and those who take a different, off-center path.

South African playwright Athol Fugard wrote "The Road to Mecca" during Apartheid in his home country. It was first performed in 1984 and debuted on Broadway in 1988, where Fugard himself played the conservative minister Marius. In the current Z-Space production, veteran actor Victor Talmadge gives Marius a skillful and nuanced reading, allowing us to slowly realize his heart is as conflicted as everyone else's.

Wendy vanden Huevel plays Miss Helen Martins, an iconoclastic widow living in Nieu Bethesda, the most remote village in the Karoo desert, an 800 mile drive from Capetown. Fugard based his story on the real Helen Martins, an artist in Nieu Bethesda who committed suicide when she became too blind to continue sculpting. In our story, Miss Helen is befriended by Elsa (Jodi Jackman), a young schoolteacher from Capetown who has become Miss Helen's only true confidant.

The story is brilliant and the cast every bit its equal. We have to mention Eric Flatmo's picture-perfect set with set decoration by Leah Hammond. The moment we arrive in the theater we feel like we are sitting in Miss Helen's windswept cottage, with its candles, twinkling glass and sense of hope.



The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants Z-Space's "The Road to Mecca" THREE STARS with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. We loved everything about this production, but most of all the ensemble of three actors at the top of their games. This is a show that has you thinking about it for days afterward.

"The Road to Mecca"
Z Below
470 Florida St., San Francisco
Through June 30


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