BWW Review: ON THE PERIPHERY at Potrero Stage
The plight of social outcasts living on the periphery of 1990's Istanbul is hauntingly presented in Golden Threads and Crowded Fire's production of Sedef Ecer's emotionally somber On the Periphery. Buoyed by excellent performances, direction, scenic design and multimedia projections, Ecer provides a seldom presented glimpse into the reality of the dispossessed of society; young lovers Tamar and Azad eager to leave their slum for new opportunities in Paris, villagers Dilsha and Bilo, whose urban migration turns from excitement to nightmare, and gypsy wanderer Kibele, a pariah living on the periphery of the periphery.
The lives of these characters are tough, but their resilience against the odds shows their inner strength. Azad (Zaya Kolia) and Tamar (Leila Rosa) watch TV reality queen Sultane (Ayla Yarkut) on their rickety cable connection dreaming of immigrating to the EU. Sultane, an Oprah-esque manufacturer of dreams provides the much-needed humor balance of the play. Hawking her sponsors pot and pans and quoting false Plato quotes, Yarkut represents the hopes of the poor to see their wishes realized.
Dilsha (Sofia Ahmad) and husband Bilo (Lijesh Krishnan) are following their dream of creating a community near a trash heap on the other side the periphery, the border between modern Istanbul with its skyscrapers and seaside with the slums of huts and dirt roads. Building their Genies and Angels Hill slum from scratch is a dream realized, but it al falls apart when a polluting pesticide factory begins the decay and destruction of their slum. Kibele (Olivia Rosaldo-Pratt) is the outsider's outsider- reviled for her practice of ancient magic and spells, she's a wanderer still in a land of wanderers.
The two generations stories will eventually merge providing a continuity of the hard struggle these people endure with a brief glimpse of hope to alleviate the abject misery presented. Ecer's script had a folk-tale cadence with a resounding authenticity. Director Gilley allows the actors to reveal the story simply but with the strength of their characters will. Scenic Designer Kaye Boyd, Lighting Designer Cassie Barnes, Projection Designer Nima Dehghani and Costume Designer Maggie Whitaker take us into the realistic slum environment. Sound Designer James Ard supplies the music and sounds of the Turkish culture.
On the Periphery is powerful theatre providing an opportunity for us comfortable Americans to connect with the millions of immigrants reaching for the dream of safety, the prospect of work and acceptance in a new land.
On the Periphery continues through April 4, 2020 at Potrero Stage, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco, Tickets available at www.potrerostage.org or by calling (415) 992-6677.
Photo by David Allen Studio.