THEATER REVIEW: “Dangerous House” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Barbara Waldinger
Photograph by Sarah Sutton
South Africa is the ONLY African country where gay marriage is legal. At the same time, the common South African practice of “corrective rape” — purportedly intended to turn lesbians straight — goes unprosecuted.
This is the background of the taut and powerful drama Dangerous House by Jen Silverman, the fourth and final Nikos Stage production of the Williamstown Theatre Festival‘s 2018 season. Silverman has spent several summers at the Festival, where her play The Roommate was performed in 2017 after a 2016 reading there. In 2010, while living in Japan, she watched the televised broadcast of the World Cup in South Africa, accompanied by her expat South African friends. Questioning what it meant to her friends to leave their country and separate themselves from all they’ve known, having to create a new existence while resisting the magnet-like pull of home, Silverman found her first inspiration for Dangerous House. The second is based on the work of Cape Town resident Ndumie Funda, who runs “Luleki Sizwe” – a safe house for queer women who have been raped or are victims of violence.
Director Saheem Ali – a gay man who left his home in Kenya, where homosexuality is taboo, to become a United States citizen – suffers the guilt of abandoning the human rights struggle within his country. Because of his strong identification with this play, Ali has been working with Silverman for the past two years “reimagining and restructuring it.” Despite Silverman’s anxiety about telling a story that takes place in a country and culture to which she doesn’t belong, Ali assured her that her work was respectful and authentic.