The 7 Stages of Grieving Review – Australian Aborigines Cross the Water

Chenoa Deemal in THE 7 STAGES OF GRIEVING - Photo by Justin Harrison
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The first professional Aboriginal production in Los Angeles, THE 7 STAGES OF GRIEVING tells a story worth hearing for every American. For theirs is a tale of an Aboriginal people’s fight for equality and recognition. Before 1778, over 800 Aboriginal nations lived in Australia. Between 1778 and 1928, also known as “the killing times,” the Aboriginal population was reduced by 75 percent – a reduction occasioned by disease and over 500 massacres, the last officially sanctioned massacre in 1928. But things were to change in 1967, when a set of constitutional amendments was introduced which finally recognized the Aboriginal people as human beings instead of “flora and fauna.” Finally, in 2008, Australia’s Prime Minister apologized to “the stolen generation,” Aboriginal children who were forcibly snatched from their families and sent to Christian missions.

Chenoa Deemal – Photo by Justin Harrison

With a clear parallel between Australia’s treatment of their native population and America’s behavior towards their indigenous people, United Stages (formerly Australian Theatre Company) brings to Los Angeles this poignant production. Starring Chenoa Deemal, a First Nations Guugu Yimithirr woman from Hope Vale in Queensland, Australia, THE 7 STAGES OF GRIEVING received critical acclaim and has been produced all over Australia and now Los Angeles. Written by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, THE 7 STAGES OF GRIEVING may open a few eyes in today’s world.

Chenoa Deemal – Photo by Justin Harrison

In a poignant depiction of the Aboriginal culture, Deemal offers a symbolic rendering of Aboriginal history. What more potent vessel for such a tale than rituals associated with death and grieving – both of an individual (perhaps a grandmother) and of an entire culture as it approaches death – but perhaps resurrection as well? The staging is simple yet powerful, relying on lighting (Dan Anderson), sound and audiovisual design (Justin Harrison), and graphics (Guillermo Perez). THE 7 STAGES OF GRIEVING is an internal journey carefully engineering by director Jason Klarwein with compassion and clarity.

Chenoa Deemal – Photo by Justin Harrison

THE 7 STAGES OF GRIEVING alternates been some very serious business and dollops of humor interspersed with personal tales. This is a production which will appeal to audiences fascinated by cultural issues, both those reflected in other countries and – by analogy – those which occur every day within our own borders. This is a thought-provoking account of events which happened long ago and far away – and yet which seem so timely right here and now.

Chenoa Deemal – Photo by Justin Harrison

THE 7 STAGES OF GRIEVING runs through November 24, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, at 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 ½ N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Tickets range from $20 to $35. For information and reservations, call 866-811-4111 or go online.

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