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Theater Fri Oct 26 2012

Review: Silk Road Rising's Night Over Erzinga

Levi Holloway, Michael Salinas, Sandra Delgado and Rom Barkhordar.jpeg

Levi Holloway, Michael Salinas, Sandra Delgado and Rom Barkhordar

The lynchpin in the Great American Dream Press Kit is, and has always been, reinvention. "Give me your tired, poor, huddled masses", and I'll make your forget all those tyrannical inhumanities you and yours have suffered under from the ages.

Well, it's a nice hook, and a great selling point of yesteryear; today's (fewer and fewer) immigrants know that maybe you can go home again someday, and to read the fine print on the Statue of Liberty -- America's a great place to be, but the Land of Promise cannot wash away the atrocities of genocide.

The Oghidanian family of Erzinga, Armenia find themselves in the worst grace-under-pressure circumstances -- it's the middle of World War I, and the Turks are not only occupying their country, but killing off the Armenians in mass, happily obliterating them, kidnapping and forcing young Armenian men to fight on the Turkish side, killing off the older men, and the young children, and raping and torturing the young girls and women. The Oghidanian's son, Ardavazt, turns eighteen, ripe for familial celebration, but also the age that he must leave his family and "enlist" the Turk army. Ardavazt's family hides him from the Turks during a home "inspection", and on his eighteenth birthday, after cake and drink, Ardavazt is whisked off to a ship that sails to safe lands, where he transfers to join a distant cousin in Boston.

In Boston, Ardavazt eventually becomes "Jimmy", and begins the build-out of his American dream. Letters are exchanged between Jimmy and his family left in Armenia, but after a couple of years, there is no longer a response from this family. Jimmy files away his Armenian memories, and never speaks of his family again, not even to Alice, also an Armenian immigrant Jimmy finds love at first sight with in their Boston neighborhood. Alice wants to remember and talk about Armenia -- the good and the horrid. Jimmy refuses to let Alice share those memories with him, and later their young daughter Aghavni "Ava", and as Jimmy further grasps unto the great American entrepreneur, Alice loses her grasp on reality, and eventually must be committed to a sanitarium and submitted to electro-shock treatments. Alice no longer recognizes her husband and child, and with no understanding of why her father is emotionally shut off and brittle, or what made her mother go insane, "Aghavni" is forever Ava, leaving her father's home to become a chorus dancer, but bringing the same of being a disconnected immigrant with her.

"Jimmy" and "Alice's" secrets become Ava's lies, and it is not until she meets singer "Benny" Raymundo, a proud Dominican, baring happy, sad and harrowing memories of his former Dominican life, does Ava begin to open up, a little. Benny insists that Ava have a reconciliation with her father, if only that their child Estrella know her roots, and also (mistakenly) believing that Jimmy is all the family that Ava has left. The reunion of Ava and her father is a mixed bag -- Jimmy and Benny come to quickly adore one another; Ava would rather her father be back in Boston, especially if he's going to share her family secret with Benny.

The birth and upbringing of Estrella brings sobering realities to Ava -- knowing better doesn't necessarily result in doing better or being better, and a Christmas Eve reunion with Jimmy and spirits from the past bring epiphany to both father and daughter, which will allow Estrella the freedom from Turk atrocities Erzinga is not a story about genocide, but a story about the "collateral damage" of genocide; the shame and shaming of the victims; the stench and aroma of madness that infects and plunders until the victim finds the key -- the lynchpin -- to unshackle themselves, first by finding the ways to accept that bitter herbs rest next to the sweetness of honey and apples in this life, the lives that came before, and Erzinga must be seen and experienced for what it is -- a remarkable work that resonates through all of us with a buy-in to the Family of Humankind.

Night Over Erzinga plays through November 11 at Pierce Hall at the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington St. Tickets and more information here.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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