The back cover of the Playbill for “Eclipsed” shows Lupita Nyong’o, the Mexican-Kenyan actress who won an Oscar for “12 Years a Slave” and played Maz Kanata in the new “Star Wars” film, looking quite glamorous and beautiful in a full-page advertisement for Lancome Paris.
Her physical appearance could not be more different in “Eclipsed,” Danai Gurira’s brutal and harrowing drama depicting African women struggling to survive during Liberia’s civil war in 2003, which has transferred to Broadway after a sold-out run at the Public Theater.
Nyong’o (whose 15-year-old character has no name) first materializes from under a plastic tub in a squalid hovel, where she is being hidden by two “wives” (Pascale Armand and Saycon Sengbloh) of a rebel officer fighting the forces of the country’s president. They hope to protect the girl from being subjected to sexual slavery. Nevertheless, she is spotted, raped and named wife number four.
Unlike the other women, she can read and write, and she devours a leftover biography of Bill Clinton. She is also tempted to follow the model of another wife (Zainab Jah) who turned herself into a tough, gun-toting guerilla fighter.
“Eclipsed” is not an easy play to take in. It brings the audience uncomfortably close to a destructive environment. But it is an important one that brings attention to the ongoing plight of women in war-torn Africa. The performances are exceptional all around.
The production (directed with graphic detail by Liesl Tommy) also has historical significance, marking the first Broadway show with a female playwright, a female director and an all-female cast.
Gurira is a Zimbabwean-American playwright and actress best known for her work on the television series “The Walking Dead.” Her newest play, “Familiar,” just opened Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.
If you go
“Eclipsed” plays at the Golden Theatre through June 19. 252 W. 45th St., eclipsedbroadway.com.