Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama
Henry Naylor has written two works that are not only complex, but compelling. Among the myriad subjects contained in both Echoes and Angel are many of the current issues we read about daily in the news: the Middle East, Islam, ISIS, radicalism, and jihadism. There is also strong focus given to the equality, or more accurately lack of equality, between women and men in the Middle East and the subsequent restriction and violence imposed on women.
Echoes is the story of two women living in Ipswich, England 175 years apart. Both leave their homes at the age of seventeen to marry and to fulfill their chosen missions in life. Tillie (Rachel Smyth) lives in the Victorian era. She is a Christian, and wants to produce children for the Empire. Samira (Serena Manteghi), a present day Islamist school girl, wants to build a Caliphate–a Muslim political-religious community as originally created following the death of the prophet Muhammad. The outcomes of their missions are remarkably similar and it is the events leading up to these outcomes which comprise the story of Echoes.
Anita Lvova in Angels
Angel is based on what were likely, to some extent, real events. According to legend, the Kurdish freedom fighter known as The Angel of Kobane shot and killed at least 100 ISIS fighters in Syria. Rehana’s (Avita Lvova) strength, determination, and fearlessness are testimony to the inherent power of all women.
The performances of the three actresses are superlative. The depth of research which clearly went into the creation of each role is remarkable. The honesty of each portrayal of present and past events, including the other characters involved, is without fault.
Rachel Smyth and Serena Manteghi
The role of Tillie as portrayed by Rachel Smyth is a challenging one. The character demands a restraint and quiet demeanor that make it difficult to counteract the more overt power of Samira. The actress remains true to her role.
Michael Cabot’s direction of Angel and Emma Butler’s direction of Echoes miss neither a beat nor a nuance. Reality is maintained without ever lapsing into melodrama or shock for the sake of shock.
Both works are filled with pathos, violence, and moments of humor and, perhaps most important, reality. They demand the complete focus and involvement of the viewer and, though sometimes disturbing, they should not be missed.
Angles & Echoes
Produced by Redbeard Theatre in association with Gilded Balloon Productions
59 East 59th Theaters
59 East 59 between Park and Madison
Running through May 7 with performances Tuesday through Friday at 7:15 p.m., Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. and Sunday at 3:15 p.m..
Top Photo: Rachel Smyth and Serena Manteghi
Photos by Carol Rosegg