Like many theater people, I enjoy “live” theater more than any other form of entertainment. I go to each production in hopes that I will be entertained and walk out of the theater feeling both entertained and somewhat informed or educated about what the topic or storyline of the production is to be. Over the years, attenting the Silk Road Productions ( actual name is Silk Road Rising) I have had this feeling. There “mission” is to create live theater and videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern lenses. That is fine with me as many of us know very little about the cultures of these people and the more we learn about them and their culture, the less we will stereotype them in our everyday lives. Let’s face it- many of us , since 9/11 have had some doubts about anyone who appears to be from any of these regions. There are many paranoia about the Middle east and the play currently residing at Silk Road Rising’s home at Pierce hall at The Historic Chicago Temple Building, “Invasion!” written by Jonas Hassen Khemiri is supposed to open our eyes to the prejudices of people dealing with culture race and language.
To be honest, although I found the cast very talented, I found that the story, as written was not what I had expected to see. I was hoping that it would deal with more than just an Egyptian and his plight, and get more into what we can do to control the prejudices and the things that cause them. This four character play directed by Anna Bahow is 80 minutes of what might be termed skits instead of scenes as there are many stories rolled into one. What ties them altogether is a word, a name ( a “magical” name) Abulkasem. This is a name used by many of the characters in the play as that special , magical power that brings one to a higher level. Evidently , this is a character of mythology in the Middle east, but I truly felt that the playwright never really gets into the power of this character or name.
in fact, there are many references to things that make no sense and despite the quotes from other writers around the country ( including a few locales), I found that the story needed more owrk. Kamal Hans, Amira Sabbagh, Glenn Stanton and Omer Abbas Salem all do a wonderful job with the characters they bring to the stage. Even the very start of the play begins with confusion as two audience members take to the stage to stop what appears to be another play and off we go! I had some difficulty following just where we were going and since many a reference was made yo Chicago, wasn’t sure just when we left Chicago to go east, but somewhere along the way we did. We were in Sweden where the story , as per my notes, is supposed to be taking place. The play is about Identity, but not so much who you are but how others see you. If you change your approach and your fashion, will people accept you or will they expect you to fit-in? Should we judge the people who are different from us on their skin color or language rather than for who and what they are? That seems to be a major concern in the United States.
Just think how many people say that signs in the U.S. should NOT be in Spanish as well as English! People who come to America should ONLY speak English! While many have opted to learn a second language, there are some comforts in the native language of those who have come here.W hile, as I said, I was hoping for more about the topic, I was held captive by the movement of the stories,scenes and perhaps would have gained more insight had I been able to stay for the “talkback”, but I was hoping that this would be a story that would get into the actual means of convincing people that those who are from the Middle east are not always ready to kill themselves for a higher cause and that their religion does not teach them that this is what life is all about. There are crazy people in every race, creed and religion. We all must learn to not judge a “book by it’s cover”. Brown skin does not mean “Invasion!”.
This production will continue at the Temple located at 77 West Washington Street ( lower level) through September 15th with performances as follows:
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $35 and can be ordered by calling 312-857-1234 ext 201 or online at www.silkroadrising.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreincghicago.com, go to Review-Round-Up and click at “Invasion!”.