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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘REFUGE’ highlights a universal need for belonging

David Adam Moore and Victoria Tzykun designed the interactive performance as a testament to stability   


By CLARA FISCHER — arts@theaggie.org


Prompted by the ongoing war in Ukraine, the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance presents “REFUGE – an immersive theatrical installation.”

The performance, created by Granada Artists-in-Residence David Adam Moore and Victoria Tzykun, is composed of various scenes depicting life in a war-torn country, and the many complex emotions that come with this. Moore emphasized the more general theme of the performance, stating that “… the focus of this work [is pointed] not on the depiction of the current situation, but on a central question raised by the Russian invasion of Ukraine: What is home?” 

 The setup of the performance contributes significantly to this theme, as the audience is transported into the setting itself. Viewers are ushered through hallways and across the main stage to view a series of scenes meant to emulate the experiences of refugees and others affected by wartime. At various points, actors even weave through the audience and break the fourth wall to interact with the crowd. Through these tactics, viewers feel intimately connected with the work and can begin to grasp the gravity of what is being represented. 

Of course, this innovative screenplay wouldn’t be as impactful as it is without convincing performances by the cast. As Moore states, “[Working with a live situation] brings a deeper level of responsibility and engagement for student performers tasked with creating characters who embody the experience of millions of refugees from many times and places throughout human history.” 

There is a lot of talent on display during this production, and it aids in bringing across the highly charged subject matter. The actors, singers and stagehands accountable for transporting the audience into the scenes being presented all do a fantastic job at their respective roles.

On top of impactful performances by the cast, the innovative stage design adds dimension to the experience. When first entering the set, audience members are guided through a long, dark hallway with various everyday items suspended overhead while actors recite testimonies about their meanings from behind the curtains. This gives the production a chilling undertone from the start and sets up the immersive aspect from the beginning. Other impressive design elements include a bed that actors switch in and out of seemingly out of thin air and a symbolically choreographed dance routine utilizing floating beams of light. 

It’s abundantly clear that this difficult subject matter was handled with care and concern.; from the themes to the execution by cast and crew, this show comes at an opportune moment in modern history to give thought to universal questions concerning belonging, displacement and what makes a place a home.        

“REFUGE” will be playing March 2- 5 and March 9-10 in the Main Theater at Wright Hall, with showtimes at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are available on the Department of Theatre and Dance’s website.

Written by: Clara Fischer — arts@theaggie.org