Written and directed by Aram Kouyoumdjian
The history of the Armenian people is a long and complicated one. It’s a history I know only a little of and after seeing this really remarkable play I have an urge to learn more.
“Constantinople” is set in the years after the end of World War I, post-genocide and it centers around Vehanoush, the editor of a feminist journal, and Roupen, a guerrilla fighter. Together they coordinate missions for the recovery of women and children abducted during the Genocide, as well as border crossings into Armenia to transport supplies and weaponry.
Vehanoush is able through her connections and maneuverings to press the Armenian elite for the funds they need to support their efforts to rescue and protect those that remain in Armenia and to evacuate young women out of the region entirely when they can. Arranging marriages to Armenian men leaving for anywhere but there.
Their efforts are successful, although they are keenly aware that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing, the funds drying up and the allied armies who had been ensuring peace are withdrawing from the area and taking peace with them as they go.
It was a terrible time and one that made heroes and traitors and martyrs. A poet, inflicted with TB, wrote powerful and lasting epic poems about that time and there is a beautiful symmetry in the closing of the play where we are brought into the relative present and meet the children of escapees who now cherish the history of this particular moment in time and create a shrine-like museum in the home of Vehanoush.
This play is full of sadness and frustration, but it is also full of love and hope.
I was completely transfixed by the performances and the gorgeous writing. The characters are bold and exquisitely formed, their lives told with grace and honor and a lot of very believable humor. There are a host a wonderfully vivid characters with layered, nuanced and compelling struggles of their own, all expertly played and intricately linked.
I found it heartbreaking and very powerful and I was deeply moved by the strength of Vehanoush in the face of overwhelming odds. Everyone is perfectly cast, there are some truly lovely performances. It’s an extremely significant story quite beautifully told and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
“Constantinople” is not a long run…so be quick to get your tickets!
Running September 27-November 2. Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm
The Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, 91601
Cast: Eva Abramian (Anna/Lara), Jonathan Fishman (Parsegh), Jade Hykush (Vehanoush), Travis Laughlin (Roupen/Serop), Kristin Mothersbaugh (Zabelle), Luc Rosenthal (Haig), Robert Walters (Shenian/Gorun)
Creative Team: Alan Tollefson (Scenic Design), Henrik Mansourian (Lighting Design), Allison Dillard (Costume Design)