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Familiar (play)

Familiar is a play written by Danai Gurira, commissioned by Yale Repertory Theatre.[1]



Familiar had its world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut on January 30, 2015.[2] It ran through February 2015. The production was directed by Rebecca Taichman.

The play opened Off-Broadway at Playwright's Horizons as a limited engagement on February 10, 2016 in previews.[3] After receiving critical success, the run was extended and Familiar ran until April 10, 2016.[4] The production at Playwright's Horizons was also directed by Rebecca Taichman.


Familiar takes place in the winter of late 2011 at the home of Marvelous and Donald Chinyaramwira in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The story focuses on a Zimbabwean family that is preparing for the wedding of their eldest daughter, Tendikayi (addressed as Tendi) who is first generation American. The play opens on Marvelous (often called Marvi by other characters), Donald, and their youngest daughter Nyasha awaiting the arrival of Tendi and her fiance Chris (who is white). We are introduced to Margaret, Marvelous’s youngest sister who comes to join in the pre-wedding festivities. Tendi and Chris arrive along with Anne, Marvelous’s eldest sister, who still lives in Zimbabwe. Tendi and Chris tell Marvelous and Donald that they wish to perform the Roora ceremony (or bride price), a Zimbabwean wedding tradition, and have it facilitated by Anne. This angers Marvelous who wishes to keep the family rooted in American, Christian tradition. The play grapples with African-American identity and tradition and the clashing of ideals.[5]

Characters and CastEdit

Character Yale Repertory Theatre Cast Playwright's Horizons Cast
Nyasha Shyko Amos Ito Aghayere
Chris Ross Marquand Joby Earle
Margaret Munyewa (Mai Tongai) Patrice Johnson Chevannes Melanie Nicholls-King
Tendikayi Cherise Boothe Roslyn Ruff
Donald Chinyaramwira (Mai Tonhgai) Harvy Blanks Harold Surratt
Anne (Mai Carol) Kimberly Scott Myra Lucretia Taylor
Brad Joe Tippett
Marvelous Chinyaramwira (Mai Tendi) Saidah Arrika Ekulona Tamara Tunie

Critical responseEdit

Familiar opened to positive critical reviews for the New York engagement at Playwrights Horizons from the New York Times, and New York Magazine among others.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times called the play “fiercely funny” and remarked on the production’s contrasting tone to Gurira’s play Eclipsed writing “Although it is just as accomplished, Familiar is a play written in a significantly lighter key, even as it probes with subtlety and smarts the subject of immigration and assimilation — a topic of major currency these days.” He goes on to compliment Gurira and Rebecca Taichman (the director of the production) “Ms. Gurira weaves issues of cultural identity and displacement, generational frictions and other meaty matters into dialogue that flows utterly naturally. Her engaging characters are drawn with sympathy and, under the crisp direction of Rebecca Taichman, Familiar stays firmly on course even as the complications pile up".[6]

Marilyn Stasio of Variety Magazine had contrary thoughts of the play's second act. She wrote “Sorry to say, the warm feelings generated by this open-hearted play turn cold in the second act. Seemingly unsure of where to go with all the plot possibilities she raises, Gurira makes the worst possible choice of darkening the narrative by revealing unbelievable and out-of-character family secrets".[7]

The play received positive reviews for its New Haven production. Of the New Haven production Anita Gates of The New York Times remarks "Familiar is a turn from world politics and international crises toward domestic comic drama, and she [Gurira] makes the transition seamlessly".[8]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Off-Broadway production[9]Edit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Obie Awards Distinguished Performance by an Actress Tamara Tunie Won
Lucille Lortel Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play Ito Aghayere Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Myra Lucretia Taylor Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Myra Lucretia Taylor Nominated
Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play Nominated
Drama Desk Awards Sam Norkin Award Danai Gurira Won



  1. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Yale Repertory Theatre to Present Danai Gurira's FAMILIAR, 1/30-2/21". Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  2. ^ "In Yale Rep's world-premiere 'Familiar,' a family is thrown into flux". Yale News. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  3. ^ "Familiar : Playwrights Horizons". Playwrights Horizons. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  4. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Danai Gurira's FAMILIAR Extends at Playwrights Horizons". Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  5. ^ "Familiar : Playwrights Horizons". Playwrights Horizons. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  6. ^ Isherwood, Charles (2016-03-03). "Review: 'Familiar,' a Comic Clash of Assimilation on the Path to a Wedding". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  7. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (2016-03-04). "Off Broadway Review: Danai Gurira's 'Familiar'". Variety. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  8. ^ Gates, Anita (2015-02-14). "A Review of 'Familiar' in New Haven". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  9. ^ "Familiar - Lortel Archives". Retrieved 2016-11-16.