ReOrient 2019 deserves your attention at Potrero Stage
ReOrient 2019: Festival of Short Plays Exploring the Middle East. Golden Thread Productions. Potrero Stage, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco, CA. www.goldenthread.org. October 18–November 17, 2019. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm.
ReOrient 2019 deserves your attention. Rating:
For their 20th anniversary festival of short plays from or about the Middle East ReOrient has mounted seven diverse plays that include three world, two west coast and one U.S. premiere. They have wisely bookended the evening with two strong monologs given fascinating performances by Atosa Babaoff who earns accolades as “the star of the evening.” She is almost matched by Lawrence Radecker’s heart wrenching monolog role in “The Book Of Mima.”
In the first play The Grievance by Iraqi-British play wright Rendah Heywood, Atosa Babaff (listed only as Woman) plays a rich and highly successful investment banker who is completing a verbal application for membership in an exclusive club where the members can fulfill their fantasies. The interview is by an off-stage voice (Amitis Rossoukh) and all the intimate personal and lurid details are mater-of-factually extracted. She wants to be a dominatrix and be able to punish rich white old men who have stood in her way to success in the business world. Yes, she gains entrance to the club and in scene two she has unexpected results of what she wished for. It is a stunner.
In closing the monolog Brass Knuckles (world premiere by Yussef El Guindi) Babaoff again plays a strong Muslim woman who is steeling herself to walk freely in the streets wearing a hijab. The play is based on an actually event when two Muslim women were attacked while riding the light rail train in Portland, Oregon. She may appear as vulnerable but you hear the strength in her voice and her resolve as she prepares for her walk in a hostile environment.
In the world premiere of The Book of Mima by Naomi Wallace and directed by Rebecca Novick Lawrence Radesker is the voice of a bird flying over the devastated country of Yemen spotting a young girl reading “The Book of Mima.” He tells us morning is meant for flying and “mima” means little dove. It is an ironic twist as the voice of the bird shifts to that of military fighter plane or a drone ready to wreak havoc on what was once a beautiful peaceful nation full of antiquities.
An Echo of Laughter by Betty Shamieh is based on the experience of a distant cousin in Austria where the “Diary of Anna Frank” was not in the school curriculum. Shamieh’s protagonist is a teacher ( Sofia Ahmad) in Gaza City, Palestine who encourages her young students to write their personal biographies with hope that the world will remember them. This hope is tempered by having a physical actor playing the specter of Adolph Hitler (Lawrence Radecker) hanging over the class room. The feeling of hope is dashed by the suggestions the world will not care about what is happening in Gaza but there is always hope.
The Basement is a world premier by Mustafa Kaymak with Ayca (Amitisis Rossoukh) as another strong woman not backing down in the face of adversity. The place is a military office on the outskirts of Istanbul, Turkey where citizens routinely disappear (think of the Kurds). Ayca is confronting the Lieutenant (Lawrence Radecker) about the disappearance of one of her friends. During their encounter the premonition that those confined have been killed is bluntly verified as a Soldier (Ali-Moosa Mirza) drags bloody body-bags across the front of the stage. During the encounter the Lieutenant hides behind the statement “I was only doing my job.”
Lameece Issag’s West Coast premiere of Noor and Hadi go to Hogwarts” postulates that even under dire circumstances the written word can inspire hope and carry the reader to distant lands. “It was inspired by Bana Alabed, the seven year old Syrian girl in Alleppo who tweeted about the bombings and received the “Harry Potter” e-books from K. K. Rowling’s agent in November 2016.” Noor (Sofia Ahmad) is 10 years old and she is reading from the e-book to Hadi (Ali-Moosa Mirza) her direly wounded 8 year old brother. Although the dialog and plays construction is extremely competent and heart wrenching, the older actors do not capture the youth needed to give depth to Issag’s words.
In Spenglic, a world premiere by Niku Sharei, is the most elaborately staged production with futuristic costumes(Brooke Jennings) of a future time in the fantasy country of Spenglia in general and the specific hi-tech GloBtron company. It is a highly satirical play asking the question how far you would go to get coverage to pay for medical bills for your gravely ill son. Would you take on a job requiring you to give up your name and conform to strict rules within a company with questionable loyalties to its workers? The question is unanswered. Amitis Rossoukh as ShelB and Sofia Ahmad as Meetoo give it a noble try.
The running time is less than two hours with an intermission and this production deserves your attention.
ENSEMBLE: Sofia Ahmad , Atosa Babaoff , Ali-Moosa Mirza, Lawrence Radecker, Amitis Rossoukh
PRODUCTION TEAM: Directors:Michael French, Rebecca Novick, Lisa Marie Rollins, Torange Yeghiazarian.
Lead Drarnaturg Nakissa Etemad; Research & Publications Dramaturgs Emily DeDakis, Laura Espino, Scott Horstein, Michael Malek Najjar; Scenic Designer Kate Boyd; Lighting Designer Dylan Feldman; Sound Designer James Ard; Costume Designer Brooke Jennings; Properties Designer Grisel GG Torres; Makeup Designer Kenan Arun; Graphic Designer Navid G. Maghami; Casting Director Nakissa Etemad; Technical Director Megan Hillard; Production Manager Grisel GG Torres; Assistant Production Manager Tyler Miller; Stage Manager Karen Runk.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com