Writer: Irene Kapustina
Director: Irene Kapustina
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
Theatre at its best, regardless of the technical details of its presentation, moves an audience to connect more deeply with the world it reflects. Irene Kapustina’s Lost and Guided, with its text taken primarily from interviews with refugees in the United States, bridges the divide between American audiences and the realities of being a Syrian civilian at the onset of civil unrest, student uprisings, and a violent regime’s quest to remain in power. As both writer and director, Kapustina makes a difficult story engaging and approachable, while retaining the emotional and complex truths of humanity’s darker side.
It’s Syria, starting in 2011. Focusing primarily on the lives of four young adults—Rima (Mouna R’miki), Amina (Mischa Ipp), Imad (Doga Celik), and Sami (Shayan Sobhian)—as their lives are turned upside down by the conflict raging ever closer to their front doors, Lost and Guided is heavy fare. There is hope and hopelessness, love and heartbreak, life and death. It is a complicated and emotional journey without an easily packaged outcome, and it deserves to fill every seat in the house.
Outside of an awkwardly staged moment or two, including the use of clearly-blank notebooks that are allegedly filled with years of personal jottings, this production is craftily directed, with clever choices that clearly understand both the limitations and the possibilities of the basic theatrical space. The stage starts surrounded by silken, shimmery curtains, but as time passes and the world around them crumbles, characters tear down most of the strips, exposing the pipes and black-painted brick of the black box theatre. At one point, an officer beats a student to death, each in separate places on stage, like a live split-screen. The choreography in this moment, of ensemble players Alexandra Kattan and Jarrod Zayas, is almost perfectly executed, creating the complete fight scene in the minds of the audience without putting the fight directly or traditionally on stage.
Lost and Guided is both affecting and effective. It is not a production that offers answers, or seems to believe that there is only one conclusion to be made by individuals entrenched in the crisis. It tells a difficult story with deceptive simplicity, resonating with the deepest and most communal human spirit. Employing religion without a hint of preaching or judgement, it creates an emotional indent that follows you home.
Runs until 27 August 2017