“Constantinople” is a Modern Look at a Global Concern – Review


It is a story that most Americans have never heard. Constantinople,” playwright Aram Kouyoumdjian’s powerful play, is not just a response to historical events but it reflects the present that we’re living through. The story unfolds during the aftermath of World War I, circa 1919, when the city was under Allied occupation. It focuses on the Armenian minority in the post-genocidal era, at a time of political intrigue, military struggle, and a burgeoning feminist movement. Now, a century later, we find ourselves contending with the same challenges as the play’s protagonists—notions of displacement, migration, anti-immigrant sentiment, and struggle for women’s rights.

Travis Laughlin and Jade Hykush – Photo by Armineh Hovanesian

Vehanoush (Jade Hykush), the editor of a feminist journal, and guerrilla fighter Roupen (Travis Laughlin), coordinate missions for the recovery of women and children abducted during the genocide. With funding from wealthy financier Parsegh (Jonathan Fishman), they cross into Armenia to transport supplies and weaponry and have managed to rescue Anna (Eva Abramian) who is pregnant and traumatized from rape. Their missions have become increasingly dangerous and nearly impossible. A once stoic idealism is challenged as the political situation around them takes a darker turn, and Parsegh threatens to cut off all funding.

Eva Abramian and Luc Rosenthal – Photo by Armineh Hovanesian

Vehanoush wants to arrange a marriage between Anna and an American Armenian man who is on a short visit to Constantinople. She believes all new life, no matter the conditions under which it was conceived, will ensure the continuation of the Armenian people. This gripping drama, historically based on events of the time, cleverly weaves fact and fiction. As an entire nation teeters on the brink of displacement, the “new girls” of this era begin setting their sights on a life beyond the confines of the city, rather than a life of oppression within it.

Robert Walters, Kristin Mothersbaugh, Travis Laughlin – Photo by Armineh Hovanesian

Each scene opens with dramatic and compelling original music composed by Ara Dabandjian and Ken Press. Seamless stage positioning and movements on and off the stage by the entire excellent cast enhances the value of this important production about a little known catastrophe that affected and disrupted the lives of millions.

Aram Kouyoumdjian,a notable and award-winning playwright, is himself an immigrant who has experienced displacement and separation. He believes that migration is as fundamental a global concern today as it was a century ago. How do immigrants contend with the struggle to begin anew—without resources and alone? How do they endure the stigma of being “other,” and how do they overcome it? The play poses these questions for modern-day audiences in LA while telling the Armenian story. “Constantinople”isn’t an historical play; it’s a contemporary play set within an historical context,” explained Kouyoumdjian.

“Constantinople” is a compelling thought provoking piece of work, with many palpable, stinging reminders of global assailment. It’s an important contribution to a world that has been largely unaware of, and too long denied reminders of, the horrors of genocide. 

The cast includes Eva Abramian, Jonathan Fishman, Jade Hykush, Travis Laughlin, Kristin Mothersbaugh, Luc Rosenthal, Robert Walters

When: “Constantinople” runs through November 2, 2019

8:00pm Fridays and Saturdays, 3:00pm Sundays

Run time is 90 minutes with no intermission.

Where: Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 W. Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601 

Tickets: $20 to $40. Reservations: itsmyseat.com/Constantinople

Information at 818-538-4911 or online.