Monthly Archive for: ‘April, 2013’

A personal look at PILGRIMS MUSA AND SHERI IN THE NEW WORLD playing on Center Rep’s Off Center stage

Gabriel Marin & Rebecca Schweitzer in Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World at Off Center Rep

PILGRIMS MUSA AND SHERI IN THE NEW WORLD: By Yussef El Guindi and Directed by Michael Butler. CENTER REP on the intimate Knight Stage 3 Theatre. Lesher Center for the Arts 1601 Civic Drive in downtown Walnut Creek. www.CenterREP.org or call 925.943.SHOW (7469). April 27 through May 12, 2013

A personal look at PILGRIMS MUSA AND SHERI IN THE NEW WORLD playing on Center Rep’s Off Center stage.

Center Rep’s production of Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World under Michael Butler’s provocative staging/direction is well worth a trip to the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek. For this play Butler is the scenic designer as well as the director putting his very personal stamp on Yussef El Guindi’s very personal play that won the 2012 Steinberg Award as the best American play that had not been produced on Broadway. It is playing at the intimate 130 seat Off Center ‘black box’ theatre where the audience becomes drawn into the action.

For this reviewer, the play brought back very personal memories. Both my parents were immigrants to America from Greater Syria that was divided into Lebanon and Syria after World War I.  He met my mother, the youngest of three sisters, who ran a boarding house in Upstate New York in 1911 and eloped with her on his motorcycle. The fact that he was a Muslim, though non-practicing, and she was a Catholic was as great a dichotomy as that between non-practicing Muslim-Egyptian Musa and white American waitress Sheri who elope in his taxi cab.

Although I have given away the penultimate scene it will in no way detract from the convoluted love story that is infused with modern day, post 9/11, angst of assimilation of Arab immigrants into American culture. In one scene, a dream sequence, a secondary character Abdallah (Dorian Lockett), a Sudanese Muslim, gives thanks for the American opportunities for success that led to his financial independence. When I offered to take my successful truck farmer father, whose name was Abdul(lah), back for a visit to Syria, his response, in colorful Arabic, suggested I was crazy because he was now an American.

Back to the play. Although the ancillary cast of Lena Hart, Carl Lumbly and Dorian Lockett are fine actors, the evening belongs to Rebecca Schweitzer as Sheri and Gabriel Marin as Musa.  She is a ditzy chatter-box waitress who accepts an invitation to visit Musa’s walk-up apartment knowing full well that sex should be the ultimate end of the evening. Schweitzer is a whirl-wind of insecurity as she prattles on and on about her past experience with abusive boyfriends, an alcoholic mother and inner emotional turmoil.  Marin as a young Egyptian-American taxi driver with his own insecurities is the perfect foil for Schweitzer with his minimalist verbal responses and expressive facial movements to her inane chatter.

It is a love story with political-social implications that are woven adroitly, but not seamlessly into the text. Musa is torn between his potential marriage to his fiancée Gamila (Lena Hart) and a life of oppressive sameness stifling his desire for change. Gamila an intellectual woman thoroughly integrated into the American dream but is willing to accept the customs of Arab culture where elders plan the future of their children.

Carl Lumbly is superb as Somali Tayyib, Musa’s best friend who makes a living illegally selling luggage on the street. El Guindi has given Tayyib the words explaining the devastating effects of cultural differences of a match between Musa and Sheri that can only lead to disaster. He has personally experienced such a disaster. This fact is emphasized in a poignant last scene between Tayyib and Gamila.

You may not cheer when El Guindi’s pilgrims head off in his taxi to uncertain adventure but you will wish them best of luck because they are in love. Running time is just under two hours with and intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com

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