NEW YORK—Produced by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, “Daybreak,” in its world premiere by playwright Joyce Van Dyke, has managed to merge material on a major horrific political occurrence—the Armenian Genocide of 1915—with material on her own family.
Often called the first genocide of the 20th century, this was a systematic murder and deportation of Armenians who fled the Turks, but not without great loss of life, as sometimes whole families perished.
In actuality, Van Dyke’s own grandmother, called Victoria in the play (Nicole Ansari), went through the terrible experience and survived, although she lost many members of her family on the way. But finally, she was able to come and build a new life in the United States.
Victoria and her friend Varter (Tamara Sevunts) talk about their lives, then and now. The play weaves in and out of Victoria’s dreamlike space and brings in her husband, Harry (Michael Irvin Pollard), and her friend Zulai (Melis Aker).
Explored are the different ways people have of dealing with serious issues. Should one always keep these issues in mind, so that one never forgets? Or should one forget the past, and move on, and forgive one’s enemies?
Parallels can be drawn, for instance, with how one should deal with memories of the Holocaust and other more current happenings in the world.
The style of the play is a tricky one, as it flows from current happenings to Victoria’s dreamlike recollections. Sometimes the line is somewhat blurred, as there are often no strong demarcations via timing or lighting changes.
But there are many fine elements that attract the viewer. Authentic Armenian dances occasionally punctuate events and lighten up what might have been solely a heavy offering. The acting is superior, with particular kudos deserved by Nicole Ansari, for the passion and depth of her portrayal.
Director Lucie Tiberghien keeps the complex proceedings moving smoothly, and costumes by Dina El-Aziz lend a touch of authenticity. Others in the cast are Robert Najarian and Angela Pierce.
The Beckett Theatre
410 W. 42nd St.
Tickets: 212-239-6200 or Telecharge.com
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (no intermission)
Closes: May 13
Diana Barth writes for various arts publications, including New Millennium. She may be contacted at [email protected]