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.
“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
"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
"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
"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 contemporary immigrant experience is explored in the heartfelt, didactic and inert family drama, ‘Noura’...Raffo’s characters, themes and situations tenuously recall Ibsen but without his monumental command of drama. Most woeful is the clunky surprise ending. Non-realistic asides and a stylized presentation compound the play’s defects...Without a defined plot, it plays out as a limp multi-character study...'Noura’s’ nobility just isn’t matched by its stilted writing." Full Review
for a previous production "Raffo has brought Ibsen’s work to new life...Her script bounces back and forth like a game of tennis between humor and strained arguments...Raffo does a beautiful job of weaving in nods to Ibsen’s work...It is moments like these that will delight fans of the original source material...This play will absolutely without a doubt make you feel uncomfortable. However, that is no reason to shy away from it. The story is worth seeing and in many ways needed to be seen." Full Review
for a previous production "Raffo’s restless, unpredictable riff on Henrik Ibsen’s 'A Doll’s House' and modern Iraq, of all things, shapes up as this festival’s best bet...Settle’s grand, simple staging at the Lansburgh Theatre and Raffo’s impassioned central performance command attention...The finish is torrential, and the portrait of a woman torn between cultures and family members is nearly searing...The slow crescendo and deep repercussions of 'Noura' make it the festival’s most ambitious and substantial premiere." Full Review
for a previous production "Provides a window into a world that is unfamiliar to most audiences...The two women's impassioned performances anchor the production, while Brumberg has a sweet natural presence. Andrew Lieberman's scenic design adds to the dreamlike feeling of the production...Masha Tsimring's lighting design and Obadiah Eaves' sound design add to the sense of unease that underlies the characters' search for a safe place to live." Full Review
for a previous production "Raffo is brilliant in the title role and brings a great deal of subtle charm to the part of the intelligent, somewhat rebellious Noura...Settle keeps the humor of the play as present as its intellectual content...Raffo's story incisively mines complicated relationships between men and women, cultures, and personal beliefs. The heart of 'A Doll's House' is cleverly and closely woven into 'Noura,' resulting in an excellent play about immigration, assimilation, and identity." Full Review
for a previous production "While Raffo proves adept at weaving all of these complex elements of identity into her story...the script does have one or two weaknesses. At only ninety minutes, it takes a bit too long to get going dramatically although the wait is, to some extent, worth the payoff...Strong direction by Joanna Settle, a mostly strong cast, and wonderful production elements allow the audience to get the most out of the theatergoing experience." Full Review
for a previous production "A magnificent production. The acting is first-rate, the technical aspects flawless, the whole experience complex and full of deep meaning...Yet for me, some aspects of it were unsatisfying...As Noura's secrets begin to be revealed, the plot begins to seem forced and less credible...The end, when it comes, is abrupt and doesn’t seem realistic...As much as I tried to, I could not believe in her tragic past or her broken heart. But don’t take my word for it. Enjoy the play and decide for yourse... Full Review
for a previous production "What is so frustrating is that every part of the play works, but fully assembled, it is at war with itself...Notwithstanding Joanna Settle’s canny direction, and fine performances by the cast, it does not hang together. The characters are authentic, the dialogue is authentic, the stories are authentic, but there is no through line, and the play’s dénouement seems like just another left turn in the narrative, rather than a satisfying catharsis." Full Review
See it if you really want to see something about Iraqi refugees and their identity crisis after living the US for sometime
Don't see it if you want to see good directing and writing. Unfortunately this is not the case.
See it if u want to see a modern A Doll's House, where many issues are raised about immigration, motherhood & marital obligations... with few answers.
Don't see it if you expect a true Ibsen redux [This is a pale adaptation/inspiration]; you don't have the stomach for heavy-handed diatribes & speeches.
See it if you like thoughtful, complex dramas, that have as much to teach about social issues as it does about the human heart
Don't see it if if you have a short attention span: the big pay-offs come late in the drama, though there are some great surprises throughout the play ...
See it if you like to explore experiences and feelings (traditions, struggles, joys, memories) of Iraqi (and other) migrant families in the US.
Don't see it if you are not interested in Middle Eastern culture or the experience and thoughts of new migrants in the US.
See it if you care about the lives of immigrant families, especially those of different backgrounds, particularly Muslim/Iraqi families.
Don't see it if you read the National Enquirer for information and live in la-la land.
See it if You’d like to see (what feels like) an accurate depiction of an Iraqi immigrant familie’s struggle to assimilate into American life.
Don't see it if You don’t like character driven plays that depend largely on their excellent acting and well written dialogue.
See it if you want to see a really intelligent take on complicated theme. You appreciate a cool new spin on A Doll's House.
Don't see it if You don't like talk and taking the time for a multifaceted look at a familiar issue. ... you want clear, cut and dried solutions.
See it if Named for the protagonist of Ibsen’s Doll House, Noura champions a woman’s right of self-determination in today’s male dominated society.
Don't see it if You do not believe a recent immigrant’s experience can be relevant for those who have been here longer.
See it if you'd like to spend an evening with a group of flawed, lovable human beings struggling to articulate themselves after they've lost a culture
Don't see it if you demand total consistency in a play's characters: these are at least as contradictory as you'll find in real life.
See it if a very intense story about family, motherhood, cultural identity, heritage and the immigrant experience
Don't see it if this play is very emotionally intense. it also deals very frankly with the intersections of tradition, morality and expediency of real life.
See it if You enjoy contemporary & serious explorations of culture, migration, gender expectations
Don't see it if You want something light or if you are uninterested in multi-cultural themes
See it if About a family struggle into life in America. The pain of the past and present of losing your Country and part of yourself.
Don't see it if Not alot of action, not a musical.
See it if You are interested in the life of exiles trying to assimilate into the American lifestyle. Iraqi Christians and Muslims generational drama
Don't see it if You have trouble with accents. You have no compassion for immigrants who hang on to traditions , fitting them into a new lifestyle.
See it if Assimilated Iraqi refugees question cost of exile when adult orphan arrives to celebrate their naturalisation. Actor/playwright on mission.
Don't see it if Heavy-handed metaphor of orphan w/o parents and Noura (Nora from Ibsen) losing country and self: "I don't know how to hang on and let go."
See it if you're interested in an immigrant family's tumultuous struggles and triumphs in starting a new life in America.
Don't see it if you're not open-minded and want to listen/learn about an immigrant's story.
See it if you care about the plight of those who immigrate to this country, not because they want to leave home, but because they must.
Don't see it if you are not interesting in issues of immigration and prefer a musical comedy.
See it if You like plays that address contemporary issues in a thoughtful way.
Don't see it if You cannot forgive some inexplicable changes in certain characters’ behavior.
See it if You enjoy dramatic plays about family and also have a compassion and interest in immigrant stories.
Don't see it if You can't empathize with the plights of immigrants and want something fun and easy.
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