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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Road to Mecca

 An old fashioned play and a top-notch actress take center stage at the American Airlines Theatre at the Roundabout Theatre Company this winter.  Athol Fugard's The Road To Mecca is a charming, albeit very wordy, drama revolving around an eccentric, elderly Afrikaner woman living in the countryside of South Africa - battling age, loneliness, depression, and the threat of losing her identity by being forced into selling her home and moving into the local senior home.

Rosemary Harris shines in her portrayal of Miss Helen, flawlessly memorizing her extensive and complex monologues - expertly portraying the elderly woman.  Mr. Fugard wraps Ms. Helen with layers of complexity which are revealed one by one by the supremely talented Harris.  Carla Gugino plays an equally refreshing, young English South African muse and confidant to Miss Helen, Elsa Barlow.  Jim Dale turns in a wonderful performance as the equally aging and staunch Afrikaner minister and de facto leader of the remote, traditional, conservative community largely unchanged over time by the outside world. 

Brevity is clearly not a characteristic of Mr. Fugard.  His verbosity is at times a bit overwhelming, but it's always intelligent, insightful, and relevant to the deep and layered characters he has created.  And what a treat it is to see Ms. Harris light the theatre with her charm (and candles).