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Review: Familiar at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co.

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A Note from the Bitches: We’ve been enjoying the theatre at Woolly Mammoth for more than 7 years and figured it was time to get an outside perspective. We turn to Guest Bro, John, a theatre junkie and ice cream aficionado, to get his take on the latest play. His review is below. 

FAMILIAR is a hilarious, moving story set on the cusp of a winter wedding in Minnesota (I know, I know, why?!). An immigrant Zimbabwean family makes final preparations for their eldest daughter to head to the alter with aid worker, Chris.

But a text message announcing the imminent arrival of a slightly estranged aunt from “Zim” sends the last remnants of order totally out the window. We discover that the bride-to-be, who never seemed to take an interest in her heritage, has asked to take part in a traditional roora ceremony. The younger, artistic sister Nyasha (played by understudy, Felicia Curry) is elated, having just returned from a trip to Zimbabwe, but roora is a catalyst that sends shock waves through the family. Battle lines are drawn across generations, between sisters and cultures.

Of course, as the complexity of the situation escalates, the men retreat to the den. Drawn into the house by a desperate groom, his brother Brad (Andy Tuschinski) becomes an unlikely hero who sprouts grin-ensuring one liners that feel more at home in a Lethal Weapon reboot than on stage. Father, groom, and brother play their own part in the emotional chaos and help both the audience and the daughters process a dramatic revelation in the third act.

Tony Award winning playwright Danai Gurira (who also plays the badass general in Black Panther) delivers a tennis match of emotion that had the audience bouncing between laughter and tears. Sharp writing and flawless performances are not only a treat, but are vessels for a powerful exploration of family, tradition, race, and the challenge of identity in an evolving world.

Marvelous (Inga Ballard) is a standout as the family matriarch as she balances cultures and pride. She is carrying a dark secret that hasn’t been uttered for decades and we see her internal battle as she fights to maintain the perfect life she’s built for her family.

FAMILIAR is a great night out that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy, with hope for the world. Your ribs might hurt from laughter but you’ll see parts of your own friends and family in this story. I saw this with my mum who was in town from Australia and I couldn’t help but hug her for a little longer than usual afterwards.

FAMILIAR is playing through March 11 at Woolly Mammoth. You can get tickets online, by phone at (202) 393-3939, via email at [email protected], or in person at the Box Office, located at 641 D Street NW.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D Street N.W.
Washington, D.C.

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