First produced 10 years ago in the Goodman's Studio Series, the other-worldly work is being revived (and has been revised) for a run to July 29 in the larger Albert Theatre. Zimmerman and members of her original design team have reimagined this story with a new set (by Daniel Ostling) and the addition of live music.
According to Goodman, "At the heart of this epic are seven romantic, adventurous and funny stories about seven princesses from China (Lisa Tejero), Greece (Atley S. Loughridge), Turkey (Stacey Yen), Africa (Charlette Speigner), India (Anjali Bhimani), Persia (Nicole Shalhoub) and Russia (Sofia Jean Gomez). Over the course of seven nights, King Bahram (Faran Tahir) weds each princess and listens as they impart a legend about love."
Bhimani, Tahir and Tejero reprise their original roles.
"Mirror of the Invisible World is an inter-cultural conversation — a profoundly universal experience of the nature of romance, the many facets of beauty and the incredible grace of the Middle East," stated Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls. "I can think of no better capstone for our season of exploration than this wondrous journey into a world that is ancient and removed from our own — but whose wisdom and beauty transcends the centuries with wit, clarity and uncommon brilliance." The Tony Award-winning director of Metamorphoses has adapted a 12th-century work largely unknown to contemporary audiences — the "Haft Paykar" by poet Nizami of Ganja — "about the life and adventures of legendary Persian King Bahram Gur."
Mirror of the Invisible World dramatizes a section of the poem "in which the king falls in love with the portraits of seven princesses from seven different countries, and then marries and builds each one a pavilion of a different color, representing a different planet or clime of the universe."
Zimmerman stated, "For all the trappings of exoticism that this poetic, loving text has — princesses from different lands and appearances of angels, riddles, disguise and adventure — there is a deep familiarity to what happens to the people of the stories. Hostile political rhetoric emphasizes difference and otherness, but masterful works of art speak to what is common in all human experience, allowing us to see ourselves in others."
The detailed new Daniel Ostling design sets the play in a palace chamber of the King which Ostling describes as "a more representational setting that will morph and give way to the other worlds and poetry of the story (while keeping) the tension between the show proscenium and the unexpected world that lives upstage of it."
Sound designer and composer Michael Bodeen has added three Chicago musicians to evoke the native land of each princess. Using a variety of traditional and non-traditional instruments — dulcimer, oud (Middle Eastern lute), percussive drums, finger cymbals, tambourines and a gadoulka (Slavonic stringed instrument), among others — "sound alchemists" Ronnie Malley, Eve Monzingo and Gary Kalar come together from two different Chicago world music groups, Lamajamal and Mucca Pazza (a 28-piece circus punk marching band).
The design team for Mirror of the Invisible World includes Mara Blumenfeld (costumes), John Culbert (lighting) and Michael Bodeen (composer and sound design).
For more information, visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org.