Theater Review: "The Convert" At The Kirk Douglas Theatre
Set in a South African village in 1896, “The Convert” follows a young African woman, Jekesai (Pascale Armand), who runs away from an arranged marriage and finds work and shelter in the home of a "wannabe" priest, Chilford (LeRoy McClain). Her name is changed to Ester, and her faith and identity transform along with it. As the conflict with colonization escalates, Ester must, like the Ester from the Biblical tale, delve into her roots and beliefs to find where her true family and loyalties lie.
All the power of the play lies within the effective deliverance of Danai Gurira's moving script, and the cast of “The Convert” certainly fulfills the potential of their roles, especially with respect to their accents. Armand captivates the audience with her portrayal of Ester, and her courage and conviction in her beliefs almost tangible. Starting out as flighty girl who is only looking for something to rely on, in which she can in turn believe, her lightheartedness and stickling attitudes win us over immediately. We follow her as she is faced by challenge after challenge, and everything around her contradicts the black and white visions she once had of the world. Painfully but gracefully, Ester matures, and Armand portrays her growth with spectacular gravity. Cheryl Lynn Bruce as Ester’s aunt, Mai Tamba, and LeRoy McClain as Chilford, bring both great humor and emotion to their performances, although they come across as somewhat forced at times. Completing the cast is Zainab Jah as Prudence, a highly educated and witty African woman, with a particularly strong performance. Jah grounded the intense emotions and flyaway passions of the other characters with her wry, practical outlook on the chaos and adversity all around. All around, the cast has put for a virtuoso undertaking of the humorous, witty, and, most of all, heavy content of Gurira’s “The Convert.”
Reach reporter Sara here.