The Chicago premiere of playwright Danai Guria’s The Convert is in Chicago at the Goodman Theatre now through March 25. The seven-person cast tells the tale of a young girl in Zimbabwe that must chose between her family traditions and a newfound love of Jesus Christ during an anti-colonial uprising. Many would think a young girl like Jekesai would stick to her Shona tribe roots, but she struggles to find balance between family and Christ.
Pascale Armand, who portrays the young girl Jekesai (or Ester, as renamed by her christian mentor) nails her performance. As Ester tries to find herself throughout the play, the audience begins to sense changes within the heart of Armand herself. She no longer plays Ester–she is Ester. Everyone in the room looks around to see if others are feeling the way that they are; as if Ester’s spirit fills the room, affecting and changing each and every person within the walls of the theater.
Was the purpose of this play to bring forth the issues in Zimbaway, or was it a foreshadow of work to come? This piece was actually written because Guira intends to write about the current situation in Zimbabwe, but before she could do so, she felt it necessary to depict the struggles of a typical community in zimbabwe. That way, in her work to come, the audience can comprehend all that unfolds before their eyes.
Guria’s aim for this play was properly executed. Having a brilliant script definitely helps bring forth heart-wrenching performances. The incredible thought and artistic devices used by the playwright created a feeling of conviction amongst the viewers. A protege of God coming to terms with her heritage at the end of a play and bringing with her a son of the tribe that had refused to embrace where he was from leaves watchers puzzled at first. but on the way out of the theater,one finds themselves asking, would I choose family over religion, or would I struggle to find a balance? A play like this is definitely worth watching,