Theatre Review: 'The Road to Mecca'
by Bill Cunningham
Jan 20, 2014 | 973 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
‘THE ROAD TO MECCA’ – Miss Helen (Rachel Deans Krute) and Pastor Marius (Mark Smith) square off in a scene from Athol Fugard’s drama, set in 1974 South Africa. (Photo by Byron McNew)
‘THE ROAD TO MECCA’ – Miss Helen (Rachel Deans Krute) and Pastor Marius (Mark Smith) square off in a scene from Athol Fugard’s drama, set in 1974 South Africa. (Photo by Byron McNew)
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"The Road to Mecca," written by Athol Fugard, directed by Tricia Dickinson and assistant director Gary Hokit and now playing at Magic Circle Theater, is a gorgeous play, a magnificent production not to be missed.

The "Mecca" of the play is not the traditional city of Islam, but rather the self-made dream of an aging artist. It is a place of love, refuge and memories set in 1974 South Africa. The play explores the always- important question of whether or not we should leave our Mecca when we can no longer take care of ourselves. The play has a vast reach, portrayed through the conflict between three strong-willed characters –  Miss Helen (Rachel Deans Krute), Elsa (Bethany Ward), and Pastor Marius (Mark Smith) – through whom universally fundamental questions concerning different religions, cultures, genders, and ages are examined.

Rachel Deans Krute stuns as she ignites the soul of an aging reclusive, iconoclastic rebel (Miss Helen) who has created a fantastic holy city of her own. Her "little miracle of light and color" represents a threat to the community's conservative ways and a rejection of its pieties and organized religion. The minister, Marius, has provided papers for Miss Helen to sign, which will consign her to a home for the aged. She is condescendingly told she will be assured "plenty of space for personal possessions and a few of your ornaments." Miss Helen rages against the invasion of inner darkness in an anguished evocation of the heartbreak of aging. Yet she can still summon another, younger side of her personality as when, in a burst of splendid laughter, she turns and says to her friend Elsa, "lets face it, we've both still got a little girl hidden away in us somewhere."

An important theme of the play is the definition of trust, perhaps the play's most crucial word between the two women, who share a relationship rare in the theater and priceless in life. All three characters are remarkably well-rounded and complete. Elsa bears the crushing weight of her own conflict with fierce assurance. Marius is not simply adversarial; with impassive resignation, he loves Miss Helen. There is not a false note in the play, not a single contrived effect. The set is a visual and thought provoking delight, a glimmering dream that is central to illuminating time, place and personal turmoil. This play lays bare some of the most common and important events of life - a magic delight.

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