Review: WHERE WE BELONG at Goodman Theatre

Review: WHERE WE BELONG at Goodman Theatre

The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s production of Madeline Sayet’s solo play runs through July 24, 2022

Madeline Sayet proves herself to be a powerful and magnetic storyteller in her one-woman play WHERE WE BELONG. Sayet has structured her text so the story becomes more personal and poetic as it progresses, and under the direction of Mei Ann Teo, she delivers her testimony to the audience in a compelling and dynamic manner. 

In WHERE WE BELONG, Sayet explores the facets of her identity: She shares her experiences as a Mohegan, what it means to be part of the Native population in America and the assumptions she faces as a result, and how to reconcile the complexities of loving Shakespeare and England—even if both are stauntly colonial. Much of WHERE WE BELONG focuses on Sayet’s team as a PhD student studying Shakespeare in London and how that experience makes her simultaneously more and less enamored with his texts and causes her to question the supposed universality of Shakespearean language. As Sayet says in the play, WHERE WE BELONG is all about the “in between.” 

Sayet includes deeply personal stories and scenes in WHERE WE BELONG, and in doing so, makes her own journey towards identity one that becomes universal in its specificity. It’s a moving and challenging feat to pull off in the theater, and Sayet does it well. She also compellingly examines the ways in which society—and namely, some of the British academics she comes across in London—want to force her into a box or have her identity as a Mohegan make her a stand-in for all Native Americans. Sayet’s piece becomes all the more powerful because we see her resisting that both in specific scenes of the play and also in the story on the whole. By writing and performing WHERE WE BELONG, Sayet is cementing that she has the right to take up space— a space that is liminal and uniquely hers. 

Sayet paces the piece well, and the production design also gives some tools to make the storytelling more dynamic. Hao Bai’s set design largely trades in abstracts, but the ethereal nature of the set nicely mirrors Sayet’s exploration of in-between spaces in the text. Erik Schilke’s compositions and sound design also work well with Sayet’s texts to punctuate some of the most emotional moments in the show. 

Even though I know Sayet has performed WHERE WE BELONG many, many times by now, her performance has a rawness and she seems to deeply feel each emotion along the journey. Witnessing that kind of passion for storytelling on stage is a kind of theater magic. Sayet is a talented writer and performer, and she packs a punch with this play. 

WHERE WE BELONG runs through July 24, 2022 in the Owen Theatre at Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn. Tickets are $15-$45. Visit Goodmantheatre.org/Belong for tickets.

Photo Credit: Jon Burklund

Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com

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