Two diplomats’ wives on stage in the same week must be unprecedented, but one can’t imagine two women being more different. One’s the star of an original comedy, The Diplomat’s Wife by Festival of Creative Arts producer-playwright Eliud Abuto.
The other’s story serves as a counterpoint to the central focus of a serious suspense thriller by Silvia Cassini in which the diplomat’s wife (Davina Leonard) struggles to sustain her sanity after her spouse is abducted by Somali ‘terrorists’ and she’s left alone waiting for months not knowing his fate.
One show is light, frothy and clever as Abuto scores well on his second original script (Betrayal the first).
But it’s Cassini’s premier play A Man Like You that sears our souls and opens our eyes to an incredible, spine-tingling performance by all four actors.
Nonetheless, it was Maina Olwenya (as Abdi, the articulate British-Somali) and Tom Walsh (as British diplomat and Somali ‘expert’, Patrick North) whose gritty tumultuous relationship controlled the audience’s adrenaline last Tuesday when A Man Like You premiered at Braeburn Theatre.
Abuto’s diplomatic wife, Terry (Valerie Wamae) is a would-be novelist who draws inspiration from the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie, contrary to her hubby’s (Robert Agengo) wish. He understands her over-active imagination and fears she’ll be affected by the stories she reads.
In fact, she’s deeply affected after overhearing her spouse and interior designer Molly (Damaris Matunda) discussing his secret plan for her surprise birthday gift. Both Terry and her nosey maid Bela (Shivishi Shivishi) believe the plot’s meant to murder Terry just as Agatha might do.
The play’s action is snappy and well-staged with a fine cast including Bilal Mwaura, Joe Kinyua and Meg Wairimu playing Terry’s mom who brings in the one ugly mother-daughter interchange that adds the one dissonant feature dampening the show’s clever comedy.
Meanwhile, A Man Like You interweaves the two stories, Lizzie’s lonely saga and Patrick’s abduction by Somalis whose motives are cryptic, apparently related to North’s close connections to powerful people, but deeper schemes unfold as the story proceeds.
The most intriguing element of the play is the psychological games played between Abdi and Patrick, which at one level look almost like an evolving friendship but their connection is complex and tenuous since one’s the captor, the other’s the captive.
Ultimately, what the play reveals is Cassini’s appreciation of the broader issues involved in the so-called Somali terrorism.