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Henry Naylor’s Play “Echoes”

Kayla Streeter, Staff Writer

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The Urbanite Theatre in Sarasota, Florida recently put on a production of Henry Naylor’s play “Echoes,” which was originally published in July of this year. The play highlights the difficulty of being a woman in a male-dominated culture during two particular historical periods and focuses on the feelings and emotions of women themselves.

The double feature focuses on two women: 19-year old Tillie (played by Kate Berg) and Samira, a young Muslim (played by Mari Vial-Golden). The young women told their stories, thereby depicting their individual experiences of living under male domination. Intriguingly, the two girls’ lives are 175 years apart, which demonstrates the resilience of patriarchal rule throughout time and across cultures.

Tillie’s story demonstrates the mistreatment of women in the British Empire of the 1840s where they would grant unmarried women passage to India in exchange for becoming wives to bachelors serving there. However, Tillie is repelled by her husband’s treatment of his slaves and of her. She wants to escape and does not like the treatment her husband gives not just to his slaves, but her as well. She wants to escape and speak out about the injustice.

Samira’s story takes place in England in 2015. While living with her mother, she begins to feel left out of a culture that seems to care only about celebrities who ply suggestive or even explicit behavior for fame. Distracted by her anger, she ends up a part of the major terrorist group ISIS. Ultimately disillusioned, she wants out, but with that wish comes death. During her time in ISIS territory, the men treated her and the other women with disrespect and abuse.

Naylor highlights not only the history and contemporary reality of the extremes of patriarchy, but also the emotional reality of the women caught up in it. This ability to convey emotional depth demonstrates his talent as a playwright. The two actors, although they are alone on stage, nevertheless bring out suspense, humor, and sadness to such a degree that viewers feel as though they have gone back in time and experienced themselves the treatment that these young women were put through.

The stories begin with the women having everything; by the end they have nothing but their thoughts and intellect pushing them forward every time they are hit, beaten, or kicked. Their journeys give audience members a sense of discomfort and open their eyes to the wide array of feelings portrayed by the actors. Naylor’s graphic and historically detailed play conveys his personal horror of the brutality of male dominance. Echoes conveys that even if we do not see this brutality towards women with our own eyes, it could still be happening anywhere in the world. The title “echoes” represents the women crying for help, crying for change, crying for someone to be there to make a change, until the echo itself fades, leaving only a sense of suspense: what will become of these women? The women showed a sense of strength and power throughout their performances, portraying women not just as toys and “the cleaning crew.”  This clear statement of power made Naylor’s play one of a kind. The play does not end happily ever after for either of the women, but it leaves the audience with an ideas, questions, and the suspense of what could happen next.

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