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‘The Suit’ comes to BAM — and Brooklyn actress Nonhlanhla Kheswa makes her hometown debut

for The Brooklyn Paper
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There’s no stage like home.

The play “The Suit” is finally making its American debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this week — bringing with it South Africa-born actress, singer, and storyteller Nonhlanhla Kheswa, who returns to the borough she has called home for 10 years.

The acclaimed adaptation of Can Themba’s short story has already made its way around the globe — making stops in London, Madrid, Naples, and several cities in China, including Beijing — and at every step, Kheswa has made sure to sing Brooklyn’s praises.

“I should get paid for it!” she said. “Wherever in the world I go, I tell people that they should visit Brooklyn. It’s heaven for me — I know it like the back of my hand.”

After so much Brooklyn advocacy abroad, Kheswa hopes that her turn as Matilda, the show’s female lead, will introduce American audiences to the apartheid-stricken South Africa of an earlier generation.

“I wasn’t there in the ’50s, but I heard so much about it from my mother and aunts,” she said. “We hope to transport people to a time and place they haven’t been to yet.”

The Fort Greene resident auditioned for “The Suit” after singing on tour with hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean and, earlier, appearing in the cast of “The Lion King” on Broadway.

“They saw many other girls,” she said, remembering how badly she wanted the part. “I never understand my friends when they say they’re going on auditions just to ‘be seen.’ If you’re not coming home with a job, you might as well stay home!”

Directed by Tony and Emmy winner Peter Brook, “The Suit” promises to be Kheswa’s most challenging — and rewarding — work yet.

“We have a great cast — it’s our job to be naked onstage,” she said “It’s a beautiful story about betrayal and love. I’m excited to share it.”

Peter Brook’s “The Suit” at Brooklyn Academy of Music [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. Opens Jan. 17, 7:30 pm, through Feb. 2.

Updated 5:38 pm, July 9, 2018
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