Syracuse Stage's "Scorched" is a searing and emotional international mystery

Nadine Malouf (Nawal) and René Millán (Wahab/Nihad) in the Syracuse Stage production of Scorched. Photo by Michael Davis Scorched

Who: Syracuse Stage

Where: 820 E Genesee St., Syracuse, NY

When: Through November 10th

Tickets: $30 - $52

Review by Arshie Chevalwala

Wajdi Mouawad is a multi-award winning Lebanese-Canadian writer, actor and director. At the age six, he and his family fled from Beirut in 1975 as a result of the Lebanese Civil War. Drawing upon that experience and inspired by Greek tragedies as well as Kafka, he wrote “Scorched”, a play that has made splashes all across the globe. And now, it’s at Syracuse Stage.

Directed by Marcela Lorca, “Scorched” follows the compelling journey that results in the twins Janine (Soraya Broukhim)  and Simon (Dorien Makhloghi) confronting their father and brother. “Scorched” is a tragedy that allows hope to seep through its tussled edges. The play deals with war, suffering and children of both love and violence presented in a way that doesn’t alleviate the suffering but also doesn’t engulf the audience with sorrow.

The character of Nawal has two renditions; one played by Nadine Malouf – the young Nawal in the midst of a war. Played by Malouf, Nawal is a hopeful yet fierce educated mother looking for her son. Playing her contrast is Socorro Santiago, whose version of Nawal has been wounded by old age, war and loss.

The only comic character, Alphonse Lebel (Tuck Milligan) speaks with a Canadian accent and effectively layers his performance with a zealous approach. As Nawal’s notary and executioner of her will, he is resolute in demanding that her wishes be carried out. He gives each of the children a sealed letter that must be delivered to an unknown brother by Simon and one to their father by Janine.

Soraya Broukhim (Janine/Jihane) and Dorien Makhloghi (Simon/Guide) in the Syracuse Stage production of Scorched. Photo by Michael Davis

All the actors except Nadine Malouf as Nawal, take more than one role. With a rapid yet distinguished change of costumes by Paul Tazewell and striking choreography, each new character is easy to distinguish.

Throughout, time and location are often vague and faint, much like memories. The motive is to tell the two stories simultaneously. Nawal’s tale of suffering through losing her child, rape, war and eventually finding her freedom and that of the twins uncovering their family’s secrets.

John Arnone (Scenic Designer) used this to the show’s advantage by using glaring sets and a surreal style represented by moving draperies and lighting help from Christopher Akerlind to convey the themes of the play. The visuals projected during the show add value to the production by creating an illusion that match the tones of the play.

One interesting feature of this production is the addition of the Kronos Quartet; a world-renowned string quartet that provides transition music for the show and helps brings out the deep-layered themes.

At the end of the two hours forty-five minute run, the show delivers a heart-wrenching story. “Scorched” makes you experience Nawal’s suffering and feel the varied emotions involved in war and the battles of family.