Other World Lovers | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Other World Lovers 

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Other World Lovers, Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, at Victory Gardens Studio Theater. This production releases us from realism as it probes the spiritual domain of a young West African couple, Marie and Marcel, trying to have a baby. Shepsu Aakhu, who developed the play with his wife Hiwote Tadesse Tamrat, has crafted a deeply engaging work--though the second act drags on a bit--rich with complex characters and language that is an absolute joy to hear. Aakhu mixes some French and Twi, a native dialect, with English to convey the locale: his dialogue alone helps transport us to a place where mystical happenings seem part of the landscape.

Director Charls S. Hall gives Aakhu's scenes the perfect nuances and rhythm, and his strong ensemble seems completely at home in the climate and milieu of the Ivory Coast. Choreographer Tabatha Russell-Koylass uses dance clearly and effectively to transport Marie to a place where her dreams give her instructions. Through the movement sequences we can see her longings and her strength. Also contributing to Marie's transformation is the music, composed by musical director George Blaise, which underscores the text with subtle, rhythmic African sounds.

Though Marie is clearly the protagonist, the strength of Aakhu's play lies in the depth he gives the power struggle between men and women, showing that both suffer in rigid traditional roles. Though its locale is specific, Other World Lovers is universal in that it concerns the survival of human community. Through the community of this company, Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, Aakhu's play comes to life. --Gabrielle S. Kaplan

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