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Her Portmanteau

From 21 critic and 71 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Intense

About the show

'Sojourners' and 'Her Portmanteau' comprise a two-part theatrical event running in rep at New York Theatre Workshop. They're part of 'The Ufot Cycle,' a nine-play saga chronicling the matriarch of a Nigerian family. More…

Decades after 'Sojourners,' the full impact of Abasiama’s decisions erupt when her family is reunited in 'Her Portmanteau.' As Nigerian traditions clash with the realities of American life, Abasiama and her daughters must confront complex familial legacies that span time, geography, language, and culture.


“In this basically one set play in one long scene (aside from the opening which takes place in the airport), the playwright cuts very deep. Not only does she show that there is more than one side to every story, but that family members can have long held misconceptions. As the women's emotions spill over in various ways, the play becomes more and more involving and all encompassing. As these family members, the three actresses are completely their own persons and create indelible characters.” Full Review

The New York Times

"The plays, a pair of stunningly acted productions, offer a moving and powerful corrective to the notion that what immigrants leave behind is always awful, and that what they find is always worth the trip...'Portmanteau' is a far more conventional work...Even so, 'Portmanteau' is the more moving of the two plays...If we have seen mothers and daughters attempt rapprochement before, we have never seen this mother and daughter do so, and never as played by Jules and the astonishing Oduye." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Exquisitely crafted and skillfully performed...The resplendent cast grapples with the complex dynamics of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation with authenticity and deeply palpable believability...The final scene is a compelling testament to the power of unconditional and non-judgmental love, to the importance of ‘belonging’ to a family and to a nation, and to the strength of a value system that transcends time and space...Particularly relevant in the current geopolitical climate." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"A master class in acting...At a time when immigration is one of the most prevalent topics, these plays hit particularly hard and, even in their slower moments, one cannot help but be completely captivated by the expertly executed performances delivered by every member of the cast...Udofia’s script is authentic and sometimes raw, and Iskandar honors these elements, letting certain moments linger for a bit too long...The uniformly excellent performances maintain the momentum." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“Directed with skill and focus by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar…The images are ripe with emotion…Adiagha is amazingly portrayed by the almost unrecognizable Chinasa Ogbuagu. It’s a knock-down brilliant transformation that still astounds me… All are excellent and completely engaged in this one-act play. A true marvel that is only made better after watching the origin play, ‘Sojourners.’” Full Review


“Udofia offers no easy answers, but her firm grasp of family dynamics will give audiences much to consider…Ogbuagu delivers a performance to remember…She is practically unrecognizable in 'Her Portmanteau,' adopting a distinct physicality and speech pattern…The three women sustain a thick air of tension through a play that is mostly one long scene...Udofia unpacks those issues with uncommon sensitivity and brimming imagination.” Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

“The acting is superb and goes a long way to mitigate the play’s slow pacing, narrative infelicities and repetitiveness…Loren Shaw’s costumes befit the characters well. Director Ed Sylvander Iskandar keeps the actors going at full throttle too much of the time…Both plays have flaws, but the strong performances make them worth a visit.” Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"Strong and intimate...'Her Portmanteau' features terrific performances by Jules, Ogbuagu, and Oduye, who wonderfully capture the realistic twists and turns as the characters feel one another out and search for their place in this new arrangement. Udofia and director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar are in no rush to reach any conclusions, letting things develop naturally on Sherwood’s homey set." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“Mfoniso Udofia’s intriguing look at Nigerian immigration…Adepero Oduye’s performance, as the aloof traveler, is focused and strong…Direction by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar is crisp. He has a great appreciation of language and culture. Costumes by Loren Shaw add authenticity…‘Her Portmanteau’ feels epic...In the world of' Her Portmanteau,' images remind us that memories of homeland can be felt in the smallest of rooms, and reflected in the greatest of skies." Full Review

New York Theater

“More streamlined and structurally coherent than ‘Sojourners,' while sharing some of that earlier play’s strengths. Again, there are knowing glimpses of the culture clash that is inherent in immigrant life…That this production chooses to leave its English-speaking audience so long in the dark will prove a challenge for many...But the challenge at least can be justified...It reproduces in the English-speaking audience something of the feeling of disorientation that new immigrants feel.” Full Review


"Despite all the information sandwiched in, 'Her Portmanteau' has too many frustrating loose ends...Despite my quibbles, 'Her Pormanteau' is emotionally dynamic enough to make me look forward to meeting Adiagha's siblings and Iniabasi's young son when Ms. Udofia finishes her Ufot saga." Full Review


“A playwright with a lot on her mind and a seriously compelling storytelling gift…There are the usual hoary dramatic devices to remove one figure from the scene and allow the other two to have at it, but that takes nothing away from the emotional jolt of the confrontations that ensue…Udofia isn’t yet fully in command of the dramatic tools available to her, and there’s little poetry in her characters. But they’re fully fleshed out people it’s easy to connect with.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“This is a cast who knows how to act with their finely crafted performances…Ogbuagu, who plays Abasiama in ‘Sojourners,’ is unrecognizable in ‘Her Portmanteau,’ she is so different. This is one talented actress. Ms. Jules brings a new level to Abasiama...This time some of the choices Ms. Udofia makes are not so clear…‘Her Portmanteau’ leaves too many issues unexplored. Ed Sylvanus Iskandar brings out the best in his actors." Full Review

Act Three - The Reviews

"This play is much more intense, direct, and shorter than the first and even as short as it was there are two scenes that are needlessly long and drawn out. This one could be approximately 85-90 minutes max and could really pack a punch. I think the creatives love their words and drama a bit too much and need to trim things down for a focused, powerful, and punch-to-the-gut two part series." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"I loved the opening of 'Her Portmanteau'...I think it set up expectations for something less realistic and more imagistic than the plays in fact are...It all takes place on a single evening, which I think is perhaps to its detriment. It’s tackling more than thirty years of occluded, suppressed, and evaded relationships and memories, yet it reaches a hasty (and to me unsatisfying) resolution." Full Review

Off Off Online

“Though the result is often excruciatingly dry, the plays demand a witnessing of their American immigrants’ stories…The plays’ micro-drama needs a lively staging to offset its sedateness, but Iskandar has gone in the opposite direction...'Her Portmanteau' suffers less from this inertia...The scripts could equally benefit from a trim...It is thrilling to watch a dynamic American voice bring the new wine of marginalized voices to the stage.” Full Review


"It's somehow flimsy on details, and it resolves too quickly and neatly. There's big emotion here, but it doesn't feel earned. One of Udofia's great strengths is her finely drawn characters; we understand right away who these three women are...But we never get a strong enough sense of what is driving them and their inner lives remain a mystery...A standard American play about the relationship between a mother and her daughters, though there's not enough at stake to completely draw us in." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“I wonder if 'Her Portmanteau' really stands alone…Curiously drab, a standard-issue parent-and-child reckoning, if one with slightly more unusual trappings...The play, which is informed by sitcom-style jokes in its early passages, devolves into a series of speeches that seem a little prefabricated...Each character gets her aria, and it all feels just a tiny bit hollow...A rather dreary exercise in finger-pointing...Still, it's worth seeing, partly for Ogbuagu, who is unrecognizable as Adiagha." Full Review

Edge New York

“My misgivings stem not from the good story, but from the prolonged telling. The nearly two hours is stuffed full of seemingly endless business: long phone calls that a majority of the audience can't understand…Usually, Ed Sylvanus Iskandar is an inventive director who uses time and space to his advantage, but in this work, it seemed that time stood still and the story did not warrant the time it took to be told.” Full Review

Time Out New York

“The best thing about the pair of clumsy family dramas is the extraordinarily graceful performer they both revolve around...Ogbuagu manages, again and again, to make these two muddled plays occasionally cohere…There is promise here. The playwright has a delicate ear for dialogue…But such poignant moments battle with unwieldy monologues and theatrical clichés...Director Ed Iskandar undercuts what's best about Udofia's writing and reveals its structural flaws." Full Review

Front Row Center

“The most compelling element of this double header is the concept...The facts of this story are often illogical as well as not written clearly. This work has been in development for some time, and the only explanation I can come up with is that Iskandar and Udofia are too close to the material...The cast does what it can, but they are not able to keep this production afloat…The intent of this story is spectacular and clear as a bell. As it stands now, the execution does not live up to it.” Full Review

Great acting, Great staging, Refreshing, Absorbing, Intense

See it if you want to see great acting with a story of family relationships (especially mother-daughter) and the consequences of hard choices made.

Don't see it if you don't like entering a story in medias res, only like traditional narrative/plot arcs, don't like women or immigrants.

Also I saw Her Portmanteau (which is set 30 years later) before Sojourners ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant, Intense

See it if you've seen Sojourners and want to follow the characters into their future; you like good drama.

Don't see it if you're not interested in the (Nigerian) immigrant experience; you're not up for a serious drama.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Moving

See it if touching story about 3 female members of a Nigerian family; family dynamics (mother-daughter); wonderful performance by Ms. Oduye

Don't see it if don't want plays that are part of a cycle of plays (althou this can stand alone many details are from Sojourner); emotional family dynamics

Also Saw this on the same day as Sojourner, the first play in the cycle. Sa... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You like fine acting and writing, in service of a compelling immigrant narrative.

Don't see it if You cannot see the universality inherent in the journey of African immigrant characters and their descendants.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if you are interested in a Nigerian family's journey over the years. (More satisfying than "Sojourners" if you can go to only one.)

Don't see it if you don't like family sagas.

Great acting, Resonant, Slow, Thought-provoking

See it if you've seen Sojourners - I recommend seeing this one second and seeing them close together. Chinasa Ogbuagu is extraordinary in both plays

Don't see it if you're not interested in very well done true family stories about immigration. The turntable set was clunky and a little noisy.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you enjoy good actors working with good material about immigration, assimilation and stereotypes.

Don't see it if you have a hard time interpreting the use of a foreign language within a story

Absorbing, Intelligent, Intense, Relevant, Heartbreaking

See it if Nigerian family comes to terms with choices the mother made when she was a college student in Texas. Sacrifices and regrets, but also hope

Don't see it if You are looking for lighter fare. It takes a while to understand what is going on, but it all comes together.

Also The two plays were excellent together. You could see them in either or... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Educational

See it if You are interested in immigrant cultures and the immigrant experience

Don't see it if Conversational dramas that focus on relationships and especially people coming to terms with hurts of the past bore you

Also This play was pretty good but far less creative than Sojourners especi... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if You can handle an emotional show with a lot of family drama

Don't see it if You are looking for a light hearted funny show this is a deep show

Stunning, Intricate, Confusing start, but just wait!, Great acting

See it if How to move ahead when weighed down by so much baggage? How to mend holes in our hearts when we make the difficult decisions. A mother and..

Don't see it if daughter(s) relationship that compels us to hope, in a Nigerian family in the 70's & today. Slow, inarticulate start, strong build.

Very moving follow-up to "sojourners" showing heartbreaking decisions of immigrants caught between two worlds

See it if shows how painfully and w humor yearning 4 family connection overcomes decisions splitting apart Nigerian-Amer family, outstanding ensemble

Don't see it if dead moments where you say "enough already," you NEED to see "Sojourners" before, since this makes "Portmanteau" resonant & heartbreaking

Also A number of people I spoke to commented that combining shortened versi... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great writing, Absorbing, Intense

See it if You are interested in the aftermath decades later of a Nigerian immigrant's life in America a few decades later. How did her life turn out?

Don't see it if You are not interested in how America affects the lives of immigrants v. the family ones still left in the home country.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if partners 85 my 75 great performances by all 4 . thought provoking dialogue but....

Don't see it if perhaps a glossary of the Nigerian terms would be useful however anxious to see the 2nd part of the cycle

Entertaining, Wonderful writing

See it if You like dramas about mothers, daughters, youthful decisions, long-term consequences, culture shock and good writing.

Don't see it if You are bothered by characters occasionally breaking into a foreign language you don't understand.

Also A follow up to "Sojourners" this play further elaborates on the diffic... Read more Read less

Slow, Great acting, Great writing, Rich, Intelligent

See it if A bit slow and long, but performances are stellar for this emotional drama. A character piece done well.

Don't see it if You need an intermission. I could have used one.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you want to know what happened next. The storytelling is great! Give me more.

Don't see it if you want a complete story with all the answers in 90 minutes.

Absorbing, Unique, Clever

See it if you want to see a fresh take on cross-generational family dramas. With the origin story, Sojourners, running in rep, it's rich and textured.

Don't see it if you don't like three-hander, living room dramas.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant

See it if You enjoy quiet stories about family/relationships that expose you to different cultures

Don't see it if You are looking for a story with a big "aha" moment.

Also Nothing "big" happens - but these are characters you can care about. Y... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if understanding the outcome of Sojourners matters. A real improvement with tighter writing than part 1. Loved the casting flip.Mom = daughter.

Don't see it if you don't care about the outcome of part 1.

Also With both plays, some tough tightening of the script would make them b... Read more Read less

Confusing, Intense, Resonant, Slow, Good acting

See it if Companion piece to Sojourners dealing w/ lead character 30 yrs later Top notch acting sustains piece despite slow pace & confusing plotlines

Don't see it if Very confusing w/o knowledge of previous incidents of 1st play However, the 'sins of the parents' & African diaspora themes are timeless

Intelligent, Relevant, Intense, Slow, Confusing

See it if You want to hear the Nigerian immigrant story as a mother tries to bring reconciliation between herself and two daughters one left in Lagos.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in above, have trouble with Nigerian accents, speechifying, Igbo dialogue with no translation, slow pace.Still worthy.

Intelligent, Profound, Great acting, Intense, Disappointing

See it if A very tense 3-hander with some very good performances. An original idea.

Don't see it if Not as good as its prequel, Sojourners. I found it hard to believe that this was the same character. Too much dialogue in Nigerian.

Absorbing, Great acting

See it if you enjoy powerful relationship problems within a family. See even if you didn't like Sojourners. This was better done.

Don't see it if you like humor. This play is all serious. Members of family with different cultural background meet.

Absorbing, Confusing, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you can get past not understanding a good third of the dialogue which is in an African language without subtitles Interesting concept,acting

Don't see it if you think theater is about words as well as emotion and. therefore, see the need to understand what is being said,