Of the many plays we at the Goodman have showcased during our annual New Stages Festival, few have sparked the excitement and admiration expressed by audiences two years ago for the developmental production of Charles Smith’s Objects in the Mirror. Inspired by the harrowing true story of Shedrick Yarkpai, a young Liberian refugee-turned-actor, Charles’ play chronicles Shedrick’s extraordinary decade-long journey: from his escape from the violent civil wars that plagued Liberia from 1989 to 2003 to his eventual re-settlement in Adelaide, Australia. Along the way, Shedrick was forced to forgo his own identity to assume that of his dead cousin—and that decision, and its many ramifications during the years of his journey, provides the central conflict of what I think is one of the most powerful new works that I’ve experienced during my 30-year tenure as the Goodman’s Artistic Director.
Objects in the Mirror is indeed a gripping, powerfully wrought story of a young man’s courageous escape from a world of almost unthinkable violence, capturing in terms both stark and poetic the realities of that violence and the dreams which fuel his odyssey. But more than that, Charles has created a profoundly moving exploration of self, identity, memory and survival—ultimately forcing us to confront, as young Shedrick did, the personally and morally complex questions that result when one is forced to discard one’s own identity to achieve survival under the guise of another.
It is a fascinating question, one without easy answers or definite prescriptions, and Charles explores the complicated ambiguities and heartbreaking alternatives with consummate sensitivity, profound wisdom and striking theatricality. I am very pleased that this premiere production continues Charles’ association with his frequent collaborator (and the director of the New Stages workshop staging), Goodman Resident Director Chuck Smith, whose customary eloquence and focus are a perfect match for this richly resonant story.
Objects in the Mirror does exactly what I feel great plays can and should do: use the exploration of a complex contemporary event to elucidate intensely personal and fundamental issues, issues to which we can all relate whatever our own experiences or backgrounds may be. I am very proud to bring this thought-provoking and moving play to the Goodman’s Albert stage—a work which tells, I feel, an essential story of our time, and the crowning achievement of one of the most passionate and accomplished writers now working in the American theater.
Buy tickets and learn more about Objects in the Mirror here. Tickets start at just $20!