Naima Dawson is a published author, Chicago playwright, and professor. Her career accomplishments cover more than 20 years in Arts Entertainment. Her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and her Master of Education from DePaul University solidifies her ability to bridge the two worlds between Arts and Education. She is the writer and producer of Your Call! Late Night Improv & Sketch Comedy for Grown Folks, as seen in production at the Apollo Theater and The Mercury Theater.
Pictured: Daniel Kyri. Photo by Liz Lauren.
By Naima Dawson
Every person has a story to tell, but rarely are we privy to each person’s truth. As people, we sometimes hold layers of who we are in secrecy. Not intentionally, but every-so-often we tend to lay in fear of our own existence.
OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR, written by Charles Smith and directed by Chuck Smith (no relation), tells the passionate story of Shedrick Kenndy Yarkpai (Daniel Kyri), a young Liberian refugee, living in Australia, who struggles to find his identity in a brand-new world. He must face life’s uncertainties, as he blindly walks through this tumultuous transition of coming into his own.
Forced to leave the political war zone of their Liberian homeland, Shedrick, under the guardianship and love of his uncle, John Warkolo (Allen Gilmore), begins a journey towards a better life. After spending many months in the vile confines of the Guinea refugee camps, the family escapes to the calms of Australia. As Shedrick sets out to find his way in this new land, he befriends an Australian attorney, Rob Masher (Ryan Kitley) who takes great interest in him. This budding friendship is frowned upon by Sheldrick’s uncle who warns his nephew to be skeptical of new friendships and to only trust family.
Shedrick is at a crossroads in life as he sets out to find his rightful place in an unfamiliar world. It is a struggle for him to find his voice in a foreign land and the harsh reality of racism. He wants to be unapologetically free to be himself, but he knows not how to conquer this plight. What is unique about this story is that it applies to so many who feel displaced in society, especially young Black boys who are trying to find their identity in a space that often squeezes them out. Whether an immigrant, refugee, or not, there are people who are constantly fighting to find placement in a world that often shames them for being their most authentic self.
With only five characters, this story does an astonishing job of walking the audience through the journey of this one family. Watching Daniel Kyri give life to Sheddrick Yarkpai placed me inside a familiar world, as an educator who works on the frontline with young people. Every day, I watch young Black boys fight to walk inside their truths, even when their voice is lost in the static of society. Kyri injects such passion and conviction into Shedrick that there are times he seems so real to me, as if peering through an open window of this young boy’s life. Kyri cleverly delivers a sense of renewed hope for all who escape the horrors of war and poverty.
Allen Gilmore is one of my favorite actors. His portrayal of Uncle John resurrects a level of realism that will move any audience to tears. He is magical to watch; his ability to levitate an array of emotions is often his secret to giving so much meaning to his characters.
Every actor in this play brought forth an incredible performance. They each gave such great life to this play. This story begins with a boy who is lost in transition, and it ends with a young man who finds a way to give himself permission to be free, regardless of the price he must pay. OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR is an important story that is timely and will speak to all.
OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR runs through June 4th. For more information visit goodmantheatre.org