By Carole Di Tosti . . . 

Presented by the Voyage Theater Company in their World Premiere, Don’t Look Back, by Adam Kraar, highlights current issues and profound themes in his reimagining of the Biblical story of Lot and his family fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah. With a minimalistic set devised in the round at HERE by director Wayne Maugans, we watch as Lot (Jeff Rubino), his wife Edith (Cynthia Bastidas), older daughter Annie (Masha King) and youngest Molly (Lina Silver) travel with suitcases through a desert wilderness, carrying just a few remnants of their previous life.

Initially, Jeff Rubino’s Lot encourages his family with remembrances of the angels’ miracles to strengthen their faith in God’s plan for them. He recalls how the angels blinded the townspeople who harassed Lot and his family. Molly’s and Annie’s complaints about their situation provide humor, as does Edith’s whining. Their annoyance and frustration at having to overcome newly confronted obstacles generate the interest and grist of the drama. 

Masha King, Lina Silver

Readily, we imagine the difficulties of this family who have now become immigrants to escape the destruction they would have faced if they remained. The reality of the immigrant experience that exists today globally is clarified with their Westernized costumes and hairstyles. The poignance of immediately leaving one’s home and all of one’s belongings is identifiable. We empathize with the themes and symbolic representation of flight, dislocation and fear. Ukraine and Syria easily come to mind as we watch this family struggle to find their way to a new life.

Kraar fleshes out the characters and creates a coherent strife between and among the family members. He intimates why Edith eventually defies God’s dictum not to turn around and look at the cities of the plain ever again. Edith least wants to leave the old way of life, having enjoyed what they built and accomplished. Leaving has been a terrible trial for her.

Jeff Rubino, Cynthia Bastides

Indeed, her faith in Lot and her faith in God is dissolved by the external obstacles they face in the desert area they traverse. Kraar pointedly spins out her complaints, repetitive arguments, and distresses. We note that in her emotional weakness and her lack of fortitude, the inevitable will happen. She won’t be able to resist looking back to see the destruction, and, regardless of the warnings, she will die. In disobeying God, in ignoring Lot’s fervent pleas and the angels’ supernatural miracle of the townspeople’s blindness, she symbolizes for all time a foolish woman. Her complaints and lack of faith usher in what happens to those who rebel against God’s goodness and wisdom, those who are unable to understand His way is health, life and security.

As they flee, the great burning destruction hasn’t occurred yet. So, to move forward, they must believe in a God they can’t see, one that Lot follows blindly. Though Lot doesn’t share all of the details with his family, he drives them toward the safety of Zoar, eventually with anger and commands. And when Edith becomes petulant and wishes to stay where she is instead of continuing the unnerving trip, Lot physically abuses her.  

Masha King, Jeff Rubino

Complicating the relationships, Lot’s belief and faith in God is underscored, while the daughters and Edith grow spiritually weary. As they struggle in the environment, undergo the hardships of the heat and physical obstacles of the long haul, unequipped for their journey to the nearest city of Zoar, only Lot maintains his belief that God will not let them down. Because of his love for his daughters and their love for him, he is able to prod them to continue. For Edith, their material want remains paramount in her mind. Her daughters are younger, more flexible and adaptable than she. Kraar shows Edith’s yearning to not only turn back, but to go back. Indeed, she doesn’t really think anything will happen to her, if she turns around to look at the past. She is wrong.

Kraar’s characterizations and Maugans’ direction make sense. The ensemble portrays the family with believability. Strongest is Masha King’s Annie whose goodbye to her mother is heartfelt. 

Kudos to the actors who enliven the struggles of the family. And special kudos goes to the technical team for the sound effects, music and projections of the stars and clouds. These add moment and power to the surreal impact of the production. 

Don’t Look Back. Through June 30 at HERE (145 Sixth Avenue, enter on Dominick Street) – no intermission. 

Photos: Beowulf Sheehan