The Convert – By Yliana Velazquez

May 21, 2012 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

Danai Gurira’s The Convert,  set in late nineteenth century Salisbury (present day Harare, Zimbabwe), dramatically illustrates the influences of British colonization and missionary work through the characters’ decisions about loyalty to their families and loyalty to their new God.  Pascale Armand’s performance as Jekesai (Ester) delivers an amazing and passionate portrayal of the struggle and change of her character. While she liked being the good Catholic protege, and even became engrossed by it, she was torn.

The nineteenth century costumes strategically distinguished the “British influenced” from the tribal villagers.  This distinction portrayed the class difference associated with Catholicism, and the connotation associated with that.  In his stiff suit, the pious Preacher Chilford, played by LeRoy McClain, illustrated the betrayal to his tribal background and people by blindly obeying the rules of an alien culture and choosing not to associate himself with the “barbarians” of such a primitive culture of Africa .  The ability to corrupt ideas and identity is truthfully shown through LeRoy McClain’s character, Chilford.

This three hour play has a lot to account for in the time slot given, maybe a little too much.  The story encompasses a lot of important issues, and while the story was very engrossing, it did not require a three hour time period to convey.  Throughout the play, the audience begins to slip away and wonder when some action is going to happen.  The first act was a bit dry; its main job to set the story up didn’t do much beyond that.  While the context was needed, it lacked in passion compared to the rest of the show.  The second act, however, was very dramatic; here, the audience experienced the issues conveyed through the play through brilliant acting.  The third act, however, was overextended.  While it did grab the audience through moments of bloody drama, I began to wonder when the play was going to end.  The core of the play happened in the second act, so the lead up and finish could have been shortened up a bit to keep the audience involved in the action going on stage.