Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Profane


This new family drama with comic overtones by Zayd Dohrn (Outside People), now at Playwrights Horizons, deals with two New York Muslim-American immigrant families, forced to confront their cultural and religious differences by the possibility of a marriage between family members. The Almeddins are a secular, liberal, cosmopolitan family living in Greenwich Village. The father, Raif (Ali Reza Farahnakian), is a novelist. who usually writes about life in exile. Naja (Heather Raffo), his wife, is a former dancer. Their scrappy elder daughter Aisa (Francis Benhamou), in her late 20s, is also a dancer, but is now working as a bartender and living at home. Younger daughter Emina (the radiant Tala Ashe of  The Who and the What) is at school in Syracuse where she falls in love with Sam Osman (Babak Tafti of Small Mouth Sounds), son of a religious Muslim family. Act One takes place at the Almeddin apartment over Thanksgiving weekend, when Emina brings Sam home to meet her family and surprise them with the news of their engagement. There are intimations of secrets in both families. Act Two takes place several months later at the lavish Osman home in White Plains, where the Almeddins have come to meet their future in-laws. Peter Osman (Ramsey Faragallah), owner of a restaurant supply business, is a jovial man who tries hard to put his guests at ease. His wife Carmen (Lanna Joffrey) is uptight and grudgingly polite to them. We also meet Dania (Francis Benhamou again), the young woman living with them who prefers to stay out of sight. The evening does not end well. At play’s end we are back in Raif’s study for a scene that, for me, was a letdown and diminished my appreciation. Most of the characters are vividly written, to the degree that I was eager to know more about their stories. Many of the family relationships ring true. As a non-Muslim, Dorhn was bold to write the play; perhaps his outsider status adds to the universality of its themes. I am ambivalent about the title and a plot point that increases the drama but clouds the message. The set by Takeshi Kata creates two attractive but quite different homes. (Stick around during intermission to watch the interesting set change.) Jessica Pabst’s costumes are appropriate to the characters. The direction by Kip Fagan (Grand Concourse, Kingdom Come) is unfussy. I was thoroughly caught up in the play until the final scene. I wish the author had come up with a stronger ending. Running time: one hour 55 minutes including intermission.

No comments: