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Review: 'unseen' at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland

Much to the joy of theater lovers, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has opened its first full season since 2019. Three plays are currently on the boards, and others will open monthly.

The west coast premiere of unseen, by award-winning playwright Mona Monsour, is playing at the Thomas Theatre. This drama offers a bold, closeup look at the difficult choices made by wartime and disaster photo-journalists. Should they reveal gruesome scenes of slaughter, or discretely turn away from the worst horrors to spare the feelings of the victims’ families?

And how does this affect the photographer? Some suffer breakdowns, some kill themselves, some are killed on the job.

In unseen we meet Mia, a young, hardened photographer who chronicles the fate of refugees and victims. Her photos are sometimes so rough that even her Turkish lover Derya and her Californian mother Jane can no longer bear to look at them.

At the beginning of the play we learn that Mia has been found unconscious on a street among numerous cadavers, with no memory of what happened. Now recovering in Derya’s Istanbul apartment, she wonders how she can do her best for people living the worse life possible. And how is she going to continue in a life like hers? In search of answers, she faces tough confrontations with her lover and mother.

With sensitive direction by Evren Odcikin, fine acting by Helen Sadler as Mia, Nora el Samahy as Derya and Caroline Shaffer as Jane, as well as an artful scenic design and a rich musical tapestry, unseen is unsettling and intriguing.

copyright 2022 KLCC

Dorothy Velasco has reviewed productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for KLCC since 1985.