My Name Is Inanna bends time and space, following a young woman’s journey as an artist and activist through the Iranian revolution, and exploring myths of the goddess she was named after. Red Tape Theatre’s exciting new production speaks to our new hybrid reality with both in person and virtual performances.
A mix of history, song, and personal narrative, Ezzat Ghoushegir’s poetic script flows effortlessly between genres, and moves at an excitingly unpredictable pace. Ghoushegir portrays a brutal honesty around the human cost of a political uprising, without at all pandering to orientalist “trauma porn” tropes that have historically dominated stories of the SWANA (Southwest Asian, North African) region. We don’t only watch Inanna struggle: we see her find joy, love and heartbreak, we see her feel sexy, empowered, goofy, enraged, we see her win and lose, be frivolous and wise — and in that messy complexity, we see her expand what people believe a Persian woman is capable of. The deep and profound cultural competency is evident on all fronts, from the writing to the direction to the casting, a refreshing change in a theatre scene that’s historically quick to produce SWANA stories without SWANA bodies in the room.
Continue reading “‘My Name is Inanna’ at Red Tape Theatre restores faith in the future of SWANA representation”
“Sorry it’s so late, it’s the only time I could” the son mumbles to his father, on a call at the top of the play. My heart panged and the guilt bubbled up as I counted the days (weeks?) since I last spoke to my mom in a way that didn’t involve emojis, feeling the tension between my words “I can’t find time” and my fear of their hidden meaning “I can’t find time for you”. In This is Who I Am by Amir Nizar Zuabi, we experience a late night zoom call between an estranged father and son as they struggle to perfect a mother’s recipe from memory. At the same time, they struggle to see and be seen by each other, each hoping for a connection that feels just out of reach. Continue reading “This Is Who I Am Transcends Politics and Makes the Palestinian Identity Personal”
Dance Nation, written by Clare Barron and directed by Lee Sunday Evans, captures the sweet, strange and uncomfortable aspects of growing up in and surviving the world of competitive tween dance, as we follow the adventures of six young girls preparing for a national tournament. A finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, the play received its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in 2018 and ran at the Almeida Theatre in London before coming to Steppenwolf for its regional premiere.
Armed with a multi-generational cast and a healthy dose of whimsy, this production succeeds in telling this story in a way that required the magic of a theatre. It invokes imagination, is anything but expected, and in this way subverts the classic coming of age story into something as weird, messy, and wonderful as actual puberty. The dances are less literal and more figurative, capturing each character’s essence. One that stood out in particular perfectly captures the importance of ‘dance face’, and puts it up front and center with the assistance of some impeccable tech. Transformative lighting by Heather Gilbert moves us seamlessly through time and space, guiding the audience along a non-linear plot. Sound design by Mikhail Fiksel perfectly underscores each dance, monologue, and transition; movement and sound feel intertwined into a well choreographed dance piece.
Continue reading “‘Dance Nation’ at Steppenwolf Theatre Captures the Whimsical Terror of Tween Angst”
Tony Award winning play Oslo is a partially fictional account of the events between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israeli officials leading up to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, dramatized for the stage by J.T. Rogers. Currently receiving its Chicago premiere, it initially premiered Off-Broadway in June 2016 directed by Bartlett Sher at the Lincoln Center. The original cast then moved to Broadway to reprise their roles in April 2017 receiving awards and acclaim from New York Critics, Outer Critics, Drama Desk, Drama League, Lucille Lortel, Obie awards and other nominations along the way.
Timeline’s highly anticipated co-production of Oslo with Broadway in Chicago seems to fit perfectly with its mission to present stories inspired by history that connect with today’s social and political issues. As a production, it aimed to explore sociologist Terje Rod-Larsen’s theory that trusting in each others’ inherent humanity and building interpersonal human connection is the only basis for healthy debate, and potentially peacemaking. The lobby display as well as a program insert provided a historical guide to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while a huge column scribbled with sharpie responses asked audience members to participate in the conversation Timeline chose to center: “How do you resolve conflict?” Continue reading “‘Oslo’ at Timeline Theatre Muddles the Message of Peacemaking”