One Acts Offer Revelations—from “Stamp Me” to “Suicide Bomber”
by Barry David Horwitz
What a wonderful evening of six one act plays by six young Middle Eastern playwrights who bring us a wild and funny rainbow of comedy and terror.
The “ReOrient” 2023 Festival of plays is presenting a bouquet of surprising new plays. Each play has a distinct style and allure—and the acting and directing are spot-on.
In “Stamp Me,” we laugh and cry with a forlorn Ahmed (sensitive John Pasha) at the airport. He fears facing U.S. immigration agents. He wonders whether to conceal his gay identity—so many questions—whispers and lies—to consider. Will get a “stamp” on his visa? Did he take that “dick pic” off his phone?
Pasha does a touching take on a man alone, waiting in the U.S. customs line. His fears and his self-doubts reveal a heartless system. The stirring one-act by Yussef El Guindi pulls at our hearts—we are with him every step. Director Sahar Assaf makes sure we follow every turn of the screw in poor Ahmed’s pilgrimage.
In “Closure” by Arti Ishak, cooly directed by Susannah Martin, we meet two Arab Muslim women in downtown Chicago. They are former school acquaintances—one was a bully and the other her victim back at middle school. Amina (commanding Neamah Hussein) was bullied by repentant Amal (edgy Sofia Ahmad).
Amina has been avoiding the calls from her former tormentor who made fun of Amina because she was a lesbian. Why would Amal contact her after so long? What does she want? The answers to these questions make for a surprising and shocking revelation—now the bully is begging for attention from the girl she forced to run away years ago. It’s a stirring and touchy story, perfectly embodied by both actors—as homophobia comes home to roost! A jewel of a one-act.
The third play “Data Queen” by Aam Ashraf Elsayigh is rich and suggestive, making fun of the psychobabble used by uptight therapist Sharon (hilarious Emily M. Keyishian). She presides over a tortured session with obsessive techie Sam (electric Hamzeh Daoud) and his anxious boyfriend Joel (empathetic John Fisher), as they sit on “Truth Stools.”
“A Massacre” by Katrin Arefy depicts an office where dead bodies are casually piles in the floor, leading to hilarious debate among the blasé office workers. They refuse to recognize the obvious.
“Picture Bride” by Judith Strang-Waldau offers a snapshot of Ani (magnificent Rose McAvoy) as she escapes the Armenian genocide by travelling to the U.S. and marrying a strange older man. Her enlightenment and transformation are stunning.
“The Suicide Bomber” by Hamed Sinno takes us on an absurdist romp and a devastating rehearsal. The playwright inside the play orders threatens the misbehaving actors and addresses hot issues with comedy.
“ReOrient” offers a rich banquet of Middle Eastern awareness and fun—it’s a heady brew of politics, isolation, and gender questioning, highlighting our stereotypes with wild humor. Don’t miss the chance to see “ReOrient.”
“ReOrient” –a Festival of Six One-Act Plays, by Golden Thread Productions, at Potrero Stage, San Francisco. Info: goldenthread.org – to November 4, 2023.
Written by Katrin Arefy, Adam Ashraf Elsayigh, Yussef El Guindi, Arti Ishak, Hamed Sinno, and Judith Boyajian Strang-Waldau. Directed by Sahar Assaf, Amal Bisharat, Susannah Martin, Adin Walker, and Becca Wolff.
Featuring Sofia Ahmad, Hamzeh Daoud, John Fisher, Neamah Hussein, Emily M. Keyishian, Rose McAvoy, AeJay Marquis Mitchell, John Pasha, and Arielle Tonkin.
Banner photo:Emily M. Keyishian, John Fisher, & Hamzeh Daoud in “Data Queen.” Photos by David Allen Studios