Far From An Angel's Gaze Theatre Review - A Terrific Inaugural Production by the Sacred Drum Theatre Company

Far From An Angel's Gaze - A Sacred Drum Theatre Original Creation now running at the Avery Schrieber Theatre in North Hollywood

Far From An Angels’ Gaze is the story of Laurent (Tejay Bah), a humble mineral peddler who has to live with the fact that he broke his promise. He promised his Father-in-Law (Odera Ozoka) in Kenya, and his new young wife Philomene (Yetide Badaki) that he would keep her safe in the new village where he took her to seek his fortune. His promise was broken when rebel militia raided and pillaged the village in his absence, leaving a sea of human carnage in their wake, including his wife, one of many women who were raped and tortured during the attack.     

Tejay Bah

                                                 Incensed with grief, he seeks solace and distraction from his local priest, Father Otto (Sadiq Abu), but remains inconsolable. He decides, despite the priest’s pleas to take revenge in his own hands. Laurent has a gun and he knows where the militia camp is. He plans to kill them all.

In the militia camp, Fabrice (Bambad Jan Bamba), a soldier since he was twelve, is haunted by nightmares of the atrocities he has witness and even commanded. The latest raid involved the rape of a woman who was once his fiancée, Philomene; a woman that he is slowly coming to realize that he loves and needs. While he plots to leave the militia and start a new live neither the guilt of his war crimes, nor the far reaching hand of the militia commanders will release him easily.

Yetide Badaki

Meanwhile Philomene regains consciousness and refuses to believe Laurent has abandoned her like some many other men have once their wives have become “damaged goods” or “disease riddle” as a result of these attacks. Little does she know he has rekindled the conflict that was not and will not again be easily extinguished, all in the name of the promise he failed to keep to her.

This first production of the Sacred Drum Theatre plays a bit clunky. There is very little in the way of imaginative lighting or sound design. Transitions between scenes are what push is show into the two hour range. Despite Anchang’s good use of Avery Schreiber’s black box space, the staging suffers due to the limited performance space. The performances in this show are much too big for this small space. (Meant as a compliment to the cast, not a criticism) Indeed the shoestrings of this production’s budget show, but give it three scenes to engross yourself in the drama, and all will be forgiven.

Bambad Jan Bamba

                                                    The real magic of this show is in the performances and the story itself. There are few weak links in this ensemble. I was impressed by the level of emotionality that was established and consistently maintained throughout the entire show. Tejay Bah gives an emotionally charged performance that set the tome for the entire show. Badaki’s Philomene is the embodiment of dignity and loyalty, even in light of the physical punishments she endured. The Fabrice character is the central antagonist of this piece. However, Jan Bamba imbues the character with such desperation for redemption that he is ultimately sympathetic. Abu gives a shining performance of a man trapped between his faith and the brutal  reality of this mortal coil. Across the board, most every performance in this show was refreshingly authentic.

Director / Writer Jude Anchang

                                                      Anchang’s script is equal parts, politics and passion, poignance and poetry. With the exception of a few scenes that bounce us unexpectedly between past and present, the script is packed densely with plot and characters. The play does demand your attention, or you will miss something. Anchang’s script is a complex tapestry of lives whose stories invariably unite and collide violently at the same fateful crossroads.

Far From an Angel’s Gaze brings this contemporary African story to a mainstream international audience through the very universal context of the indomitable nature of the human spirit. The play examines the insatiable need to love and be love; moreover how that love defines honor, identity and gives each individual life meaning. Far From an Angel’s Gaze is a tale of suffering and pain, warfare and survival, and an honest look at the reality many African nations face even today. However, grime as the story and reality might be, it is also a story rich with hope.

Avery Schreiber Theatre
11050 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, California

Jan 9th - Jan 31st 2009
Fridays and Saturdays only
Show starts at 8 pm

$15 at the door
$10 Presale tickets

$15 at the door
$10 Presale tickets

For tickets inquiries please call:
Crystal Lynetta 310-696-9876 or Tanysha Goldsmith 323-354-5159

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