Behind the Curtains | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Behind the Curtains

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Hidden Theatre, at the Greenview Arts Center.

The most dangerous sort of radical is the one who acts in accordance with a personal vision. Tahereh, the 19th-century Irani poet whose life and teachings helped found the Baha'i faith, was such a revolutionary. Ezzat Goushegir's Behind the Curtains paints a heroic portrait of the young woman whose father broke with Islamic tradition to give her an education, even allowing her to study the Koran, only to find himself the father of a full-blown crusader. After a pilgrimage to her teacher's shrine, Tahereh left her family to travel among strangers, in the company of men, whom she permitted to see her unveiled face--abominations to conservative Moslems then as now--all in the name of a messiah preaching a new gospel that propounded, among other outrages, men's and women's spiritual and temporal equality.

Goushegir's version of Tahereh's story is of necessity highly simplified, and director Hannah Gale keeps her production likewise spare and elegant, augmenting the lyrical text with eloquent visual images--notably the dance sequences choreographed and performed by Jennifer Savarirayan--and archetypal characterizations (led by Carlotta Ramos as the saintly Tahereh, with Circus-Szalewski contributing some nicely comical villains). Those familiar with Baha'i history will probably get more from this pageantlike play than those who are ignorant of it, but Tahereh's message of liberation as well as the knowledge that her teachings are banned in her homeland to this day should make Behind the Curtains intriguing to audiences of all cultures and creeds.

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