Playwrights Horizons' new drama about an Iraqi-American charts the intricate pathways of motherhood and marriage — and the fragile architecture of what we call home. Based on Ibsen's "A Doll's House." More…
Eight years ago, Noura and her family fled their home in Iraq. Today, she plans the perfect Christmas dinner to celebrate their new life in New York. But when the arrival of a visitor stirs up long-buried memories, she and her husband are forced to confront the cost of their choices, and retrace the past they left behind.
"Raffo has given us a human drama...One of the finest new plays I’ve ever reviewed in this space...Full of unexpected revelations and flashes of sudden, blinding illumination. Time and again, Raffo’s characters casually tell us things that open our eyes to the tragic complexity of their lives...directed with supreme assurance by Joanna Settle,...and acted by a cast whose other members are worthy of the galvanizing challenge of sharing a stage with the charismatic Ms. Raffo." Full Review
“Raffo plays the title character with depth and élan...A parallel with ‘A Doll’s House’. Raffo makes no pretense of disguising the correspondences with that classic work...Artfully directed...the actors bring these...characters vividly to life. Despite some elevated language, they feel lucidly, eloquently real...They’re versions of people in your own family, your own world. That’s the measure of Raffo’s accomplishment and the success of this production.” Full Review
“An enchanting and poetic new play about Iraqi refugees...The smart and stimulating dilemmas...kept my mind racing long after the play ended...Tropes and themes in Raffo’s play clearly echo Ibsen’s masterpiece. The comparison takes nothing away from Raffo’s originality, but suggests the heritage of the theatre as a lens through which to view this intelligent new play....Raffo’s script is a hopeful and optimistic take that flits and floats like a holiday miracle.” Full Review
"Elegantly constructed...In this delicate memory play, each element crafted is key. Each character’s current passions, past actions, and future dreams are filtered through American politics, different religious traditions, intertwined personal and family histories, and expectations for each other." Full Review
"The deep irony of 'Noura' is that...Noura still can’t find a place in the world to be free of shame and of secrets, and where other people’s ideas of her don’t shape her identity. Her new life is physically safer than the old, but doesn’t allow her to find a sense of self...Raffo is a luminous performer; we feel every thought that crosses Noura’s mind, and Raffo has the flexibility and complexity to make Noura both abrasive and vulnerable, and her struggle both frustrating and moving." Full Review
"Raffo and the four other actors deftly navigate the complexities that shape how they see their lives and relationships with each other. However, with so many issues to unspool in such a short time, their interactions at times short change emotionally engaging dramatics for debate-like discussions...The chance to become acquainted with people most of us know little about, the strong performances and intriguing stagecraft make this play's payoff greater than its shortcomings." Full Review
“It would be a cheap shot to say ‘Noura’ is just a contemporary version of ‘A Doll’s House’, with an Iraqi-refugee wash. But, it gets us in the ballpark. There are many intriguing parallels, but Raffo’s ‘Noura’ borrows judiciously and enriches profoundly. It has the immediacy of a news flash and the overlay of brutal, desperate flight...’Noura’ is philosophically intriguing but needs more in the emotional-impact department to satisfy.” Full Review
"'Noura' is no Ibsen retread; it’s very much Raffo’s own—an intriguing exploration of marriage, motherhood, heritage, and community that lingers long after its 90-minute conclusion...There’s a bit of a wall around 'Noura,' much like the title character herself. Raffo is a dynamic writer and performer, but she can be prone to speechifying." Full Review
“The play isn’t perfect — the plot occasionally takes predictable, soapy turns...Pacing remains breakneck, which doesn’t always allow the actors to realize a moment for its full effect. And although ‘Noura’ is essentially a realist drama, the staging includes several visual aspects that suggest spectacle for its own sake. In spite of its minor flaws, ‘Noura’ tells a story that deserves to be heard. Raffo shows how a contemporary writer can dialogue with a work of the past." Full Review
"What 'Noura' does successfully is explore the challenges of living free and happy as an immigrant in America from many angles, as the characters express the various ways identity and culture can fulfill one’s sense of being—but it also shows how malleable traditions may become in the need for survival." Full Review
"There’s a very powerful story hidden deep inside branches of the Christmas tree center stage in the fascinating and relevant new play...Numerous moments are lost or forgotten, and plot-lines squandered...'Noura' feels like a series of talking points about someone’s disturbing but disjointed journey from there to here, that never really gets inside us. It’s worth the wait though, in the end, for that last powerful unwrapping." Full Review
"Now receiving a darkly evocative production from director Joanna Settle, the occasionally too-wordy drama is likely to leave audiences with deeply unsettled feelings about everything...In both her writing and performance, Raffo harnesses the expressive power of the unsaid. Unfortunately, certain choices undermine that enthralling silence...A messier play than 'A Doll's House,' but in many ways, it's a more honest one. Full Review
"Compelling and ambitious but also, under Joanna Settle’s direction, a bit blurry. With so much going on inside the title character, much of it contradictory, the audience may feel, along with her family, flummoxed by her whipsawing...Settle’s production is long on mood, short on clarity. Yet many moments are perfectly clear and stirringly powerful..It’s good that the best parts of 'Noura' aren’t easy. But a central performance as deep as Raffo’s can eventually become inaccessible." Full Review
"Brilliantly shows how individuals have escaped their homelands and immigrated to America for opportunity...In the end the plot points were searing, but the play gets lost in its own lack of identity. Settle’s direction is a kaleidoscope of colors, but she loses her battle in understanding Noura or to even have sympathy for her...The cast all gives stellar performances and I think Raffo is a better actress than playwright, except we need to have sympathy for Noura and in the end we have lost ... Full Review
"There are many important issues raised — the difficulties faced by immigrants, conflicting feelings about honoring a past that is forever gone while adjusting to a new life, dealing with nightmare memories of war, finding a balance between community and individualism, and facing the corrosive effects of tribalism, both in Iraq and in the U.S. Some of these are better worked into the fabric of the play than others. I am sorry that the author felt the need to add some melodrama to the mix." Full Review
"A sensitive but only passably successful work…Raffo's dialogue is sometimes straightforward and natural, sometimes elusively vague and pseudo-poetic. While there are moments of insight and human warmth, too many others feel contrived and artificial…Raffo leads a company of excellent actors…But 'Noura''s significance resides mainly in its presentation of well-trodden but powerful tropes…embedded within a world that, for all its initial unfamiliarity, turns out to be pretty familiar after all." Full Review
"The first half-hour of Raffo’s family drama 'Noura' is lovely...Raffo is at her best when she’s in this preparatory phase... When the actual plot kicks in, 'Noura' becomes both predictable and, whenever Raffo gives herself a speech, strangely overwritten...Raffo has taken inspiration from Ibsen’s 'A Doll’s House,' itself indebted to the 19th century's 'well-made play' clichés. Raffo gets caught up in that machinery, and those heavy old gears grind even her very fine characterizations into du... Full Review
"Raffo, who also turns in a powerful performance as Noura, has a lot she wants to tell us: about the experience of being an Iraqi refugee in America; handling the challenges of forging one's personal and political identity; finding the balance between family - especially motherhood - and individual fulfillment, and, above all, satisfying the almost impossible need to both hold on and let go of the past." Full Review
“Raffo packs so much into her plot, including a surprise twist, that the end result is rather diffuse. There are commanding ingredients for an audience to contemplate, but the play doesn’t have sufficient impact to leave one deeply moved. However, there are many striking moments tied to the underlying theme...Settle keeps the busy dialogue brimming...Settle is meticulous in building an atmosphere ripe for puncturing...If only we could feel more deeply about the outcome.” Full Review
“Raffo’s play is meaty, but difficult. It seems to lurch rather than flow. We get no sense of Noura’s relationship to her husband before everything hits the fan. Rafa’a is an amiable cipher. The unresolved ending feels like a cop-out. There are important ideas here, applicable beyond the situation, but, in the end, the piece is less satisfying than it might be...Raffo is clearly invested as an actress, though performance is a bit one note. Elouahabi feels solid and real as does Azama.” Full Review
"Director Joanna Settle, who has teamed with Raffo before, clearly understands the play and its heroine, but she can’t quite put it over the top. Inspired by Ibsen’s 'A Doll’s House' but possessing a personality very much its own, 'Noura' deals with important personal themes for its main character and the playwright. These issues are largely internal, making them challenging to dramatize, and Raffo only partly meets the challenge." Full Review
“’Noura’ has a timely and fascinating subject in the psychological and spiritual challenges of Iraqi refugees making new lives in America, but...Raffo overeggs the Christmas pudding larding her plot with so many revelations that her drama teeters on the edge of collapse...One shocker follows another at regular intervals...There's a lot going on in ‘Noura’, but to muted effect. Too bad -- there's a gripping story here, waiting to be told.” Full Review
"When we leave, we reflect that what we've just seen registers more as mood than drama. It's been given a loving production...There are some real issues raised, and some good speeches...Raffo's unvarying delivery aside, the actors are fine...'Noura' provides welcome disclosure into unfamiliar perspectives, but it's a long, static hour and a half...Provocative topics, but in 'Noura,' they come through only fitfully." Full Review
“I expected to like ‘Noura’...I knew it was about a Christian Iraqi family living in the US, which I found intriguing, and that it delves into assimilation and loss, individualism versus community, and lies and secrets, topics that are endlessly delve-able. In addition, it riffs on ‘A Doll's House’...As the play unfolded, I found I had questions...’What is this play about, anyway?’ ‘And why should I care?’...There may be more to it than I perceived." Full Review
"The problems with 'Noura' are many, but the main reason that it never resonates with the audience is that Heather Raffo never goes deep enough. Raffo only scratches the surfaces, the many subject surfaces, but never gives us any meat to the story...Settle never has the audience interested in these people...Raffo gives us many different subjects and spends little time on each one...The essence of this play is that it was never focused." Full Review
See it if Youve interest in the immigrant struggle to achieve American Dream while maintaining cultural customs. SUPERB ACTING
Don't see it if You have trouble deciphering Arabic accent. Very good play and venue.
See it if You like complex, intimate, emotional dramas that examine the effects of war, politics, religion, and impossible choices have on refugees
Don't see it if Not interested in the plight of refugees and attempts to assimilate in a foreign land
See it if you want to see a play with very real, many-sided characters grappling with their identities. The production values are top-notch.
Don't see it if you do not like plays that are quietly passionate. Refreshingly, this play deals with serious issues but does not cheaply get in your face.
See it if See if you know anyone who is an immigrat or of immigrant decent. This is not only timely and relevant but can translate to anyone.
Don't see it if Don't see it if you do not like plays that are about immigrants or about people who have a hard time fitting in...
See it if You are interested in the assimilation and PTSD issues of refugees. You like relationship dramas with a lot of conversation
Don't see it if You prefer lighter fare. You have difficulty listening to foreign accents on stage.
See it if You want to see a story of refugees making a new life for themselves while acclimating spiritually to find a balance.
Don't see it if You don't enjoy heightened text & symbolism, and a play that forces you to think long after it ends.
See it if You are interesting in the psychological impact of being an immigrant
Don't see it if Political themes do not appeal to you or you are not interested in the political and psychological plight of the outsider
See it if You want to see how some immigrant families integrate into American Society-their concerns and hopes-without American politics also present
Don't see it if you are looking for a fluff show that provides mindless entertainment. ( these shows have their place, but this is not one of them)
See it if u like complex narratives that explore the inner life of women. Themes of immigration, assimilation, family, and trauma explored.
Don't see it if you aren't interested in complex arab american stories.
See it if you like a strong and original female lead, a new playwright's voice, Iraqi immigrant family humor (a first for me) and dramatic twists.
Don't see it if You don't want to be challenged. This play has really stayed with me and I am so glad that I saw it.
See it if you enjoy intelligent, thoughtful plays that deal with the immigrant experience in this country.
Don't see it if you don't care about how difficult it is for immigrants to be forced to leave their countries to find a better life here.
See it if You're interested in how we "Americanize" ourselves, and how refugees process trauma.
Don't see it if You're looking for more than a variation on the "American Family Drama," updated for the 2010s.
See it if you enjoy a tale about the difficulties of leaving one country and coming to another.
Don't see it if you want a lot of action. The story is about the characters, not a lot of action.
See it if you want a profound story on the intersections of life for immigrants fleeing from trauma who arrive in America carrying ghosts.
Don't see it if A clean drama. There is stuff in here that doesn't logically make sense. The play wins on passion and performance.
See it if you appreciate excellent acting. The interaction among the characters is seamless and riveting. Each actor totally inhabits his/her role.
Don't see it if you don't like political or emotional themes. At times it is a bit hard to follow as there is a lot going on.
Also I already have a ticket to see it a second time before it closes.
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