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Final show dismantles apathy for global refugee crisis

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The play is the final show of the semester at the Mary Moody Northen Theatre.

The play is the final show of the semester at the Mary Moody Northen Theatre.

The play is the final show of the semester at the Mary Moody Northen Theatre.

@G_Wilkosz

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Nearly 48 hours after seeing “ANON(ymous)” and I’m still reeling with disbelief.

Written by Naomi Iizuka and based off Homer’s “The Odyssey,” the play’s closing night was Sunday at Mary Moody Northen Theatre, but things still feel unresolved on my end. Mostly, I’m bothered knowing that Homer and Iizuka will never sit side by side to experience the best play St. Edward’s has produced. Ever.

The journey of a boy in search of his home, “ANON(ymous)” takes a whimsical, funny-yet-sobering approach to the ongoing refugee crisis and why it matters. With the play subtly rhetorical in nature, I left MMNT with my hands in my pockets chewing on two things: One, there were no more showings and this was a travesty. Two, we cannot allow ourselves to become callous in the face of displaced peoples around the globe.

Director Michelle Poulgar’s interpretation of “ANON(ymous)” was not an easy, cut-and-paste retelling of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” nor was it a by-the-book interpretation of Iizuka’s second-hand text. Instead, Poulgar and her cast and crew truly embraced the medium of theatre, spinning a delicate and unique interpretation of both inspired texts. It was, and is, a once-in-a-lifetime show.

Artistically, the play was intelligent beyond belief. Minimalist sets mimicked the desolate situation of the title character. I realized that even if I wanted to look at bigger props or more embellished costumes, my brain wouldn’t have needed to.

“ANON(ymous)” leaned heavily on sound as landscape: the far-away explosion of bombs, the beeping and steaming of the city’s underbelly, churning and spitting. This depiction of scenes’ environments as hostile or bleak, almost dreamlike in their ever-changing state, was reminiscent of the emptiness many refugees find in the temporary spaces they move to, which subsequently and outwardly reject them.

On stage, there was no comfort to be found. No tapestries or pillows, or even colors, that would’ve been soft on the eyes. The viewing experience, as enjoyable as it was, forced the mind out of its place of complacency, pushing us into the grind of living on the streets. With protagonist Anon (Josean Rodriguez), we scavenged for food, hopped trains and began in our free time the hardest work of all… assembling a personal narrative.

Despite its intense philosophical content, the play was enjoyable on all levels. And, as someone who has studied “The Odyssey” throughout high school and college, I found myself easily sliding between the intensity of Homer’s ancient epic tale and the comedy of David Long’s compelling fight scenes, ripe with ‘80s action hero nostalgia. I even forgot my education of “The Odyssey” at times, falling into the newness of the cast and crew’s masterpiece.

The play’s text was adapted and interpreted by Poulgar like a beautiful thread. Homer’s work spoke to Iizuka, and Iizuka’s work resonated with the cast and crew at St. Edward’s, who in turn, reached me. Realizing this rich literary lineage, a doing and undoing of the play, my experience felt reminiscent of Penelope’s shroud. Decade by decade, each artist has taken the tale and undoing or redoing aspects of the story, pulls the stitches of time, tending to the material and the people it represents.

Two weeks ago, I met up with a friend for coffee. We talked about things we’d recently read and took turns shaping our burdens into funny anecdotes. We also talked about the people and places that are our homes. She confided at me that at age 22, her parents explained an unexpected detail in their family’s immigration history. It was forced.

When the fighting ceases, my friend, like Anon, hopes to go back. Theirs is a story as ancient and powerful as the motif of dawn as beginning.

While Homer and Iizuka might never sit side by side to see “ANON(ymous),” I think they’d agree on a central theme. Authorities and governments will come and go, pushing agendas, wielding words like weapons, telling us that other humans are “other,” or that newcomers are not as faithful or chosen as us.

But in the face of those accusations that divide us, “ANON(ymous)” reminds us of an important truth. No plight is more human than the search for home.

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Final show dismantles apathy for global refugee crisis