A family's holiday dinner turns volatile in "Noura." Photo by Jim Cox
From the opening moment of Heather Raffo’s “Noura,” when the title character (played with arch desperation by Lameece Issaq) stands alone in the snowfall until its abrupt though unsatisfying end, this one-act drama pulsates with tension. A Chaldean Christian refugee who has left her homeland of ISIS-terrorized Iraq for a new life in Queens, N.Y., Noura feels herself in the psychological and emotional vise of two worlds: past and present. In the San Diego premiere of this play at the Old Globe under the direction of Johanna McKeon, questions and platitudes predominate during a claustrophobic Christmas celebration among Noura and her husband Mattico David), young son (Giovanni Cozic) and lifelong friend (Fajer Kaisi). The anticipation and subsequent arrival of an orphan college girl from Mosul precipitates the startling revelation of secrets and the articulation of sentiments long-suppressed or festering.
For an hour-and-a-half play that takes place in a very short time window “Noura” traffics in complications, personal conflicts and identity crises enough for a work three times this length.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 10/9/19.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.