CULTURE

Spellbinding audiences with the story of a Persian poet and mystic

«Pure» continues to spellbind audiences at the Athinais Cultural Center in Gazi. A one-woman bravura performance by Shirin Youssefian Maanian, who plays all 16 characters, «Pure» dramatizes the true story of one woman’s struggle for liberation. Born in 19th century Persia, the woman who came to be known as Tahirih, or Pure, was educated but lived in customary seclusion, subject to the will of her menfolk. But her thirst for knowledge and freedom impelled her to look beyond the confines of the women’s quarters to the exhilarating but perilous world outside. In a prophetic moment during childhood, Tahirih and her sister witness a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Marzieh hopes it will stay safely in its cocoon, because once outside it will live for just a day. «But,» says Tahirih, «she will spread her wings in the heat and noise of the garden and that day will be a glorious day.» That yearning for life led her to become a poet and a mystic who dared to question the stranglehold of religious orthodoxy. Though the authorities persecuted her and eventually had her put to death after she dared unveil in public, Tahirih’s life is still inspirational for what she achieved in a brief time. The play opens shortly before the final act in Tahirih’s drama. Her maidservant, Qanitih, goes to Tehran in search of her mistress, who has been sequestered. Qanitih becomes a Sheherezade by default as she recounts the story with wonderful comic flourishes in lieu of payment to a traveling merchant who gives her a lift in his howdah. Moving surefootedly from comedy to intense emotion and back, «Pure» is a moving experience that manages to end on a positive note. Tahirih goes bravely to her death, having sown the seeds of change. Don’t miss it. «Pure,» which is performed in English, was written by Annabel Knight and is directed by Judy Boyle. Athinais, 34-36 Kastorias, Gazi, Thurs-Sun 9 p.m., till June 19. Tel. 210.348.0000.