BWW Reviews: Visceral and Hard Hitting Journey in Book-It's LITTLE BEE
Sometimes not even Batman can save you from the atrocities of the world. Such is the case in Book-It Repertory Theatre's current production of Chris Cleave's "Little Bee". With a brutal and visceral tone at times the show manages to show off how the innocent lives of those trod upon in foreign countries can affect the lives of those in Western Civilization.
It all begins with Little Bee (Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako) telling her side of her harrowing escape from murderous oil companies in Nigeria only to land in the UK in an immigrant detention facility. But we soon discover there's so much more as the story unfolds and is also told from the point of view of Sarah (Sydney Andrews), a UK magazine editor who becomes embroiled, along with her husband Andrew (Eric Riedmann), in Little Bee's journey due to a chance meeting outside the couple's resort compound while they were on vacation. The two leave the safety of the compound for a walk on the beach but find that the real world of Nigeria is no so pleasant as they come upon Bee and her sister Nkiruka (Kaila Towers) who are being chased by soldiers of the oil companies intent on leaving no witnesses to their destruction of the girls' village. And that horrifying incident which began (as the story tells) like most horrifying incidents do, with the words, "And then the men came ...", sets off a journey for these two women leaving them scarred forever. But then, as Little Bee says, scars only prove that you survived.
True it's a very heavy story and at times almost terrifying but Nako manages an unwavering hope and optimism throughout that you cannot help but fall in love with her. Andrews turns in a focused and nuanced arc throughout the piece allowing the audience a foothold for the tale through which they can identify. Towers turns in multiple roles (as do most of the others in the show) beautifully but it's her bond and connection with Nako that completely sells the sisterly relationship making the outcome all the more terrible. Riedmann gives a stirring portrayal of an idealistic yet broken man. Michael Patten makes for a wonderful minor antagonist to the tale. Meiko Parton brings a stunning double duty in the piece one minute hilarious as the bitchy receptionist at the magazine and the next terrifying as the crazed leader of the soldiers. And I must mention little Jonah Kowal who was adorable yet never cloying as the couple's young son who refuses to take off his Batman costume lest the baddies win. Plus a gorgeous ensemble who managed to show off tremendous range and commitment as distinct and engaging individuals from both countries.
The piece is not an easy one and will definitely leave you thinking but thanks to the brilliant storytelling from adaptor and director Myra Platt, the near three hour run time flies by. This is why I must give "Little Bee" a stunned yet thoughtful YAY with my three letter rating system. It may not be a world you're familiar with but maybe you should be.
"Little Bee" from Book-It Repertory Theatre performs at the Center Theatre at the Armory through May 17th. For tickets or information contact the Book-It box office at 206-216-0833 or visit them online at www.book-it.org.