Part of the difficulty of Fringe theatre is properly setting the scene pre-show. With gruesome newscasts in lieu of pre-show music, Didn’t You See Us? by The Black Mirror Theatre made very clear what the audience was in for as soon as the studio theatre doors opened. The play was well-served by producer Dennis M. Corcoran’s set design, using garden tools with glow-in-the-dark buttons as grave markers. The lights dimmed, and suddenly eight sets of eyes were staring at me. Then a cart moves in the dark, pushed by two veiled figures.
The first moments were silent: the moving cart, the glowing eyes, the women taking in their surroundings, trying to find comfort together. But it doesn’t last. As a show about people in war-torn countries, there was no solace beyond the first moments. The sound of bombs in the distance start soon after the Woman, played by Madeline Finn, begins talking, and does not ease at any point. Bombs drop while we learn about the unnamed woman’s home, her family, her time as a prisoner of war.
Using actual experiences of women from unspecified, presumably Middle-Eastern, areas, Corcoran creates a touching piece exploring the daily horrors these people survive. Finn, in what amounts to a series of monologues, paints a sympathetic portrait of atrocities that are unfathomable to most of us, her included. Finn held her own, and, indeed, had a few very connected moments–when the Woman’s grandmother gets shot in front of her, for instance–though the script seemed to carry most of the weight.
For me, the standout was the young actress Kyra Goudsmit, playing Girl. While Goudsmit could not have been more than twelve, she delivered her monologues as though she had lived them– the way many survivors talk about their experiences in documentaries– cold, flat, exhausted of telling them, gripping hard to the joyful details before they are wrenched away again.
Didn’t You See Us? is the kind of story not often told in the heart of the midwest, much less in a midwestern theatre. The Black Mirror Theatre team shares them with grace and compassion. Final performances of Didn’t You See Us? are August 25 at 11:00pm and August 26 at 1:00pm in the Kranzberg Arts Center Studio Theatre. Advance tickets can be purchased here.