Finally, the intense, and borderline too long, “Silken Veils” tells through puppetry, music, and well-designed projections the story of an Iranian-American woman’s hysterical balking at marriage to a man she clearly loves. The imploring groom spends most of the play on the other side of a locked door declaring his love and obviously anxious about the interrupted nuptials. The show is also on the Phoenix’s Russell Stage; it’s a collaboration between Indy Convergence and Leila and Pantea Productions.
Darya, the bride-to-be, wrestles at length with her conflicted past, giving voice and stature to painful memories. Her parents are on opposite sides of her homeland’s 1979 revolution, which takes a deadly toll not only on the family’s cohesiveness but also its very existence. They are recalled in both puppet form and as dialoguing silhouettes behind a backlit white curtain. The design and the manipulation of the marionettes are outstanding.
Playwright Leila Ghazravi plays Darya to the hilt, every pained expression and searing outburst well-earned and registering unassuageable anguish. Robert Negron portrays both her intended, Ahmad, and (entering from the other side of the stage) her lost brother Xerxes. Behind the screen are Carol Anne Raffa and Bob Stineman as Darya’s parents, suffering from and with each other.
Difficulty hearing their dialogue, especially the mother’s part, can be attributed not only to the partition somewhat muting the sound but also to the distancing effect of not being able to see the parents’ faces (until near the end). What works theatrically to probe Darya’s state of mind doesn’t always succeed from a purely practical point of view.
“Silken Veils” is always enthralling to look at and unsettling to contemplate, bringing a welcome perspective to what is surely Americans’ one-sided view of the birth of Iran’s Islamic Republic. This show looks well beyond “America Held Hostage” to plunge us into a faraway historic cataclysm that called into question the continuity in family life that Americans can usually take for granted. “Darya Held Hostage” could be its subtitle.