Theater Review: Mary Zimmerman creates magic at Goodman

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11836642461701.jpg’, ‘Photo by Liz Lauren courtesy of Goodman Theatre’, ‘Pictured in Mirror of the Invisible World adapted and directed by Mary Zimmerman are (seated) Charlette Speigner (Moorish Princess) and (standing) Sofia Jean Gomez (Russian Princess).‘);

In the age of computer-generated graphics, the ability to create magical effects with light, color and hundreds of yards of fabric is absolutely unique. The Mirror of the Invisible World, adapted from Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi’s Haft Paykar, tells the story of seven brides, each from a different country, who, for seven nights relate a story to the king. The theme of color begins when we see a miniature palace with seven domes, each of a different hue, where the princesses live. Zimmerman’s amazing talent keeps us enthralled for the entire evening.

First produced at the Goodman in 1997, Robert Falls, Goodman’s artistic director, and Zimmerman decided that at this time a positive examination of the culture and poetry of the Middle East was needed. He says, “… (we see) a world that is ancient and removed from our own–but whose wisdom and beauty transcends the centuries with wit, clarity and uncommon brilliance.”

Faran Tahir (King Bahram) reclines on the stage garbed in black as the sheer curtain opens to reveal his palace. The seven princesses hold golden frames as if their portraits hang in a gallery. Anjali Bhimani, the Indian Princess, tells the first story. Her color is black. As the evening proceeds, Sofia Jean Gomez, the Russian Princess; Atley S. Loughridge, the Greek Princess; Lisa Tejero, the Chinese Princess; Stacey Yen, the Turkish Princess; Nicole Shalhoub, the Persian Princess; and Charlette Speigner, the Moorish Princess, encounter their lover and entertain him with tales of mystery and passion.

Every scene focuses on a different brilliant color, and the costumes designed by Mara Blumenfeld must have taken months to create. Never has a cast been more beautifully adorned. Daniel Ostling, the set designer, also worked with Zimmerman on the original production in 1997. His reference to today’s political climate mirrors that of Falls. Although the larger Albert Theater presents a challenge, he is able to create intimacy.

The women playing the Princesses also become every character in the stories. Playing men, soldiers, evil spirits, glamorous courtesans and ugly hags, their power to change momentarily reflects professionalism and sheer joy in their various roles. The entire cast is exceptional.

Having been a fan of Mary Zimmerman for many years, my anticipation for each new work is always rewarded. Details are her forte—from the miniature palace, a tiny model of the pyramids to entire scenes enacted behind sheer curtains lighted to reveal violent beheadings. For weeks after seeing her work, each quiet moment brings memorable pictures of a production absolutely incomparable. There are not enough adjectives to describe Mirror of the Invisible World.

Running through July 29, you must see this show. Tickets—phone (312) 443-3800 or online at MezzTix are half-price mezzanine tickets available at 6 p.m. for evening shows, and noon for matinees at the box office, and at 10 a.m. online the day of the performance, subject to availability.

Note: Bye Bye Birde

The Bonzi production of Bye Bye Birdie played June 29-July 1 at the Woman’s Club. With a cast of 53, the theater was filled with loving family members. Giving young people an opportunity to perform is admirable, and the Bonzis do this well. Jill Beardsley’s choreography gave everyone a chance to dance. The group members filled the stage, and her capacity to create an illusion reveals her years as a dancer.

from the July 5-10, 2007, issue

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