In the Yale Repertory Theatre’s bittersweet, sometimes humorous, and deeply moving play, Wish Your Were Here, we view the lives of five young, vivacious university women in Iran. Their friendship, their bonding radiates from the stage with realism and joy.
The play takes place over a 12-year time frame, beginning in 1978 when the Shah still ruled the country, through the Islamic Revolution, the Iran/Iraq war and then peace time. During this period, we witness their good times together, the strains in their relationship and, finally, how each woman has been defined. Playwright Sanaz Toossi, a 2023 Pulitzer Prize winner, deftly blends in the politics and religious upheaval occurring at the time, without being preachy or didactic.
The 100 minute, intermission-less show, opens with the women preening over Salme (Bahar Beihaghi) as she prepares for her wedding. Her friends – Nazanin (Anita Abdinezhad), Rana (Vaneh Assadourian), Zari (Ava Lalezarzadeh), and Shideh (Shadee Vossoughi) - are boisterous and full of life, joking about sex and their future aspirations. However, change is in the air. Soon, the normalcy they revel in begins to transform, altering their closely intertwined lives forever.
Ms. Toossi has structured the show with 10 scenes depicting various groupings of the women. It is notable that they only share the opening scene together. Her portrayal of each of the friends is well-rounded and distinct. The inclusion of a sixth women near the end of the play, referred to as “New Friend,” is somewhat awkward and disrupts the flow of her work.
Director Sivan Battat powerfully packs each vignette with highly-charged emotions and winsome musings. She efficiently incorporates Scenic Designer Omid Akbari’s movable set to suggest different apartment drawing rooms. Sam Skynner’s Projections, seen on the side panels of the stage between scene changes, show nostalgic and affecting videos of a peaceful, playful time for the five friends.
The five main characters, previously mentioned, are a well-synchronized group that blend beautifully together. Each, with her own well-defined personality, is given moments to shine. In the role of Nazanin, Ms. Abdinezhad is the one constant throughout the show and, therefore, her growth and disillusionment is more fully realized.
Wish You Were Here, playing at the Yale Repertory Theatre through October 28. Click here for dates, times, and ticket information.