Powerful. That's the first word that comes to mind when talking about Familiar, a play written by Danai Gurira, a well-known African American actress. This play is a masterpiece that everyone should see at least once. Drama is one of the oldest forms of entertainment, and, as humans, we love drama. This makes the play a hit for the audience as it is packed with the twists and turns that make a great family drama. Gurira draws from her own heritage for this play as it brings up many topics like culture, Zimbabwe, identity, and of course, family.
This play revolves around an African family from Zimbabwe and the conflicts they go through about race and identity. The family consists of two sisters, Tendi, the eldest, and Nyasha, the youngest; the parents, Marvelous and Donald; and two aunts, Margaret and Anne. When Tendi decides to get married to a white guy named Chris, most of the family has their own opinions, and her sister, who is afraid Tendi will lose her heritage, has the strongest opinion. The play progresses as more family shows up and causes more havoc in the small American-style house. The plot thicken as the story of this American Zimbabwean family unfolds.
The characters, set, and overall story of this family drama was done by Danai Gurira, by weaving some of her own stories and culture from Zimbabwe within Familiar’s plot. She does a fantastic job of putting herself into each character living as both an American and a Zimbabwean.
Familiar characterizes its actors throughout by using superior stage directions and dialogue for them. Nyasha, played by Aishe Keita, is a main character that often has her own opinions about things, and lets people know about them by speaking her mind. She makes this clear with her good use of lines and movements. For instance, in Act One, Nyasha shares her opinions about Chris, her sister’s soon-to-be-husband, with her mother. Nyasha says “...Ahh did white boy asked you for her hand at least?” This shows she is somewhat skeptical because he is white. She then goes on asking snarky questions about why she hasn’t met him and why the wedding is going to be “Christianized.” In general, this dialogue further explains that Nyasha will always have her own opinions and always speak up. This also shows Nyasha is unique and different than the other characters and thinks her own way.
Familiar is a play about many things but essentially it is about family. The playwright sends this message throughout by showing that any family can have its quarrels and that your heritage and identity is your family. It also teaches the important lesson that your family does not just mean your blood relatives, it also means the people who love and care about you. In the end, the play leaves a good reminder that family is family and you will always love them.
The acting is exquisite, the set is stunning, the dialogue is hilariously treacherous. These are some key elements of why Familiar is Danai Gurira's masterpiece. It is important for people to see Familiar because it is a play that people will remember for years to come as it benefits the black community. The director and some of the actors are black, and this gives hope and light and shows that there are not just white-dominated plays and musicals. This play is a mind-blowing play and should be seen by anybody and everybody.
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This review was written as part of an Arts Criticism 101 workshop at Cleveland High School. It was edited by Cleveland High School teachers and the TeenTix Press Corps Manager, Mariko Nagashima.