“Noura”: A must-see work-in-progress

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"Noura" star Heather Raffo

Award-winning Iraqi-American playwright Heather Raffo has created a poignant play in Noura, now playing a very limited engagement at the Berlind Rehearsal Room/Studio at the McCarter Theatre Center. Utilizing the stories of Middle Eastern women living in the United States, and combining them with echoes of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 classic A Doll’s House, Ms. Raffo sets Noura in today’s world of refugees and asylum-seekers. The result is a work that explores the nature of silence and sacrifice and impossible choices, gripping the audience’s attention with its emotional honesty.

Actors in "Noura" at McCarter Theatre
Actors in “Noura” at McCarter Theatre

Under the superb direction of Ms. Raffo’s long-time colleague Joanna Settle, the cast explores the depths of realism by allowing their characters’ emotions to flow naturally, and intensely listening to each other rather than just waiting for their next cue. Ms. Settle, in a talkback session after the performance, also mentioned that this production of Noura is the first that has been staged rather than presented as a reading, so that the cast can now utilize their physicality in bringing the story to life.

Noura will be performed only twice more, on February 3rd and 4th. If you are at all interested in strong playwriting well performed by a cast of five — including the playwright herself — you must see Noura. It will capture you from the start and hold you to the end of its ninety minutes.

Noura is presented by the McCarter LAB at the Berlind Rehearsal Room/Studio at the McCarter Theatre Center on the campus of Princeton University. For the performance schedule and other information about the play and the McCarter LAB, visit www.mccarter.org. To purchase tickets, call 609-258-ARTS (2787).

Worth noting: Noura is the annual Spotlight Production of the McCarter LAB, a year-round creative endeavor supporting artists at all stages of their careers while giving McCarter audiences a window into the artistic process. The LAB fosters the development of new plays and musicals, adaptations, and investigations of the classics through readings, workshops, and commissions, an artist retreat, and the annual Spotlight Production. The LAB allows McCarter to take artistic risks, making sure each project receives financial and artistic support tailored to the specific needs of a project’s collaborators. Previous LAB projects include the Tony Award-winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang; the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz; and the musical Crowns by Regina Taylor