“Lord, the fire is now in the hands of a woman!” What if one of the most well known biblical tales only told half the story? “You don’t remember me—the girl you left for dead.” What if one of history’s heroines was purposefully erased. In Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) Salomé, award-winning South African adaptor and director Yaël Farber reinterprets Oscar Wilde’s tragedy to showcase the immense strength of the female spirit.
STC’s Salomé explores the story of Salomé (Nadine Malouf), the biblical dancer and presumed stepdaughter of Herod (Ismael Kanater) who asked for John the Baptist, or Iokanaan’s (Ramzi Choukair) head on a platter. Farber inverts the usual commentary on Salomé’s cruelty by exploring her action as one of rebellion. The play takes place in flashbacks of Salomé’s fateful request and the events that led to it. As Salomé and the Nameless Woman (Olwen Fouéré) come together onstage to tell their story, they combine past, present, and future into a transformative commentary on colonization, resistance, and the often overlooked power of women to change the course of history.
…STC’s ‘Salomé’ was the most captivating production I’ve ever seen.
The caliber of acting is visible from the second the performers walk onstage. They move in slow motion, yet maintain a deliberate energy while remaining exactly in sync with one another. Beginning the narrative, Fouréré’s voice echoed from the stage into the house, and I got chills. Every decision the actors and director made—Yeshua the Madman’s (Richard Saudek) incredible physicality, Pontius Pilate’s (T. Ryder Smith) unyielding arrogance, and Malouf’s raw, breathtaking power in her nudity—revitalized the show, rendering Salomé a continuous torrent of action and beauty.
In addition to the extraordinary acting, Salomé’s design was utterly breathtaking. Susan Hilferty, the Scenic and Costume Designer, brought life to the piece through exceptionally innovative staging and unobtrusive, yet purposeful costumes. Sand rained down from the catwalk, fabric billowed from the flies, and the circular stage rotated. In addition to the staging, Donald Holder’s haunting light design added both physical and theoretical depth to the show. He used the spots to play with silhouettes and shadow as well as the water motif, thereby drawing the audience further into the mystery of Salomé’s story.
From its relentless risk-taking to its incorporation of Arabic and Hebraic texts, STC’s Salomé was the most captivating production I’ve ever seen. Do not miss it.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Advisory: This play has nudity and adult themes.
Salomé plays through November 8, 2015 at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th Street NW Washington, DC. For more information about performances and accessibility please call the Box Office at 202-547-1122 or click here.