Tuesday November 21st 2017

“Yasmina’s Necklace”

Highly Recommended ***** Our Chicago theater scene is one I find inspiring. We have many stages, large and small, and the beautiful thing is the co-operation that they all have with one another. Many Chicago audiences are not aware of the 16th Street Theater in Berwyn. This is a very intimate space located in a park district building’s lower level that seats under 50 patrons. Under the brilliant leadership of Ann Filmer, this space has flourished and audiences have taken notice of the special productions she has brought to their stage. One of these productions, “Yasmina’s Necklace” which played at 16th Street in 2016 is now being produced on the stage at The Goodman Theatre (the Owen stage), a much larger venue, which will allow many more to witness the solid writing of Rohina Malik. Many might recall her one woman show “Unveiled” a huge hit where she herself portrayed five Muslim women discussing the “covering of one’s head”. We were also privileged to see this show on several stages.

“Yasmina’s Necklace” is a love story where we, the audience, learn a great deal about the culture of the characters involved. In this story, two Muslim families, who are different in many ways, come together as part of a proposed ” planned marriage”. Sam ( Michael Perez is masterful in bringing this character to life) is a divorced, almost anti-Muslim, seeking to live the American life. His father, Ali ( Amro Salama) wants him to find a Muslim woman to marry and has set up a meeting with a recent Iraqui arrival and his daughter.  His mother, Sara (an incredible performance by Laura Crotte) is of Puerto Rican heritage, but is Muslim and has taken the ways of her husband. It is her desire to see her one and only son married with family living the Muslim life as she and Ali have.

Sam goes with his parents to meet Yasmina ( a dynamic performance by Susaan Jamshidi, returning in this role, as does Perez) and her father, Musa (deftly handled by Rom Barkhordar) who was a dentist, but cannot be in this country. Yasmina and her father fled their homeland for the US in order to survive. Yasmina’s mother had been a victim of the war and she still is haunted by the memories of  that horror. Both Sam and Yasmina have problems with relationships and the building of them, so during the scenes to follow, we watch as something special takes place between the two young people. Yasmina is an artist and her work pulls Sam closer to her, despite his initial statement to his mother that he does not want a Muslim wife.

Part of the beauty of this play is that the parent-child relationships may be Muslim, but they could just as easily be the guilt trips from Italians, Jews, Catholics, Irishmen or just about any other culture. Every ethnic group has traditions and desires for their children. No matter what. The big difference for most Americans is that we are not used to seeing the other side of the Muslim population, only that which appears on the news and even those in film and TV are not always portrayed in a glowing light. These people are real! These characters have souls!

Under the solid direction by Filmer on a much larger stage with a much more detailed set, “Yasmina’s Necklace” takes us deep into the heart and soul of a woman who left her world behind and is being forced to live a life she does not understand or want. Her counterpart, Sam is trying to be unique and not what his parents want him to be- in other words, to live his own life, with or without a Muslim wife. I should also tell you that Yasmina has memories that one might call haunting as she has visions of a soldier (Frank Sawa), a man ( Salar Ardebili) and a young man, who was her first love, Amir ( ably portrayed by Martin Hanna). I will not go into these characters as doing so would take away the impact.

There is one more character in the show. Imam Kareem ( the always reliable Allen Gilmore, once again showing just why) the Muslim leader who has brought these families together and becomes the glue that keeps the parts intact. This is a true love story and one that shows how two individuals who feel that their lives are somewhat messed up and want nothing to do with each other can fall in love. This love is very strong, and yet, their past can get in the way. FYI-the necklace in the title will become very important in the second act ( in case you are wondering why the necklace is even mentioned). While it is a love story of sorts, it is filled with comic touches and  perhaps erase some of the stereotypes that we have been accepting in other media. In fact, Malik is in hopes that this story will smash the stereotypes forever! Here’s hoping it works!

The set (Joe Schermoly) is beautiful, designed to have both family’s home represented. Rachel M. Sypniewski’s costumes are colorful and very authentic in appearance ( I was involved with the Devon-Northtown business association for many years and attended many Muslim celebrations- terrific!), and the lighting (Cat Wilson) as well as the sound and original music (Barry Bennett) all add to the beauty of this production. Yes, the 16th Street production was solid, but this one allows Filmer to open up the story.

“Yasima’s Neckalce” will continue at The Goodman thru November 19th with performances as follows:

 

Wed, Nov 1: 7:30pm
Thu, Nov 2: 7:30pm
Fri, Nov 3: 8:00pm
Sat, Nov 4: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Nov 5: 2:00pm
Thu, Nov 9: 7:30pm
Fri, Nov 10: 8:00pm
Sat, Nov 11: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Nov 12: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Tue, Nov 14: 7:30pm
Wed, Nov 15: 7:30pm
Thu, Nov 16: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Fri, Nov 17: 8:00pm
Sat, Nov 18: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Nov 19: 2:00pm
 To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Yasmina’s Necklace”.

 

Stage: Owen Theatre /Goodman Theatre

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-443-3800

 There are special accessibility performances as well: visit http://www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Accessfor these dates and shows

Tickets range from $10- $40 and can also be purchased at the box office- 170 N. Dearborn or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org

 

 

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