Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield MA
through October 18, 2015
by Barbara Stroup
Freshman year of college - in Cairo - for a devout American Muslim girl begins with airport chaos until her “all-American” Egyptian roommate plucks her from the crowd. Offers of punk rock and MacDonald’s from her new friend, Samar (light-skinned in tight jeans and baseball cap and chatting amiably on her cell) surprise “Inty” (dark-skinned, head covered). These distinguishing features help fuel the confusion (and attempts at resolution) of the identity theme that is the basis of this striking new play by Tom Coash.
|Photo by Kevin Sprague|
Impeccably acted by Donnetta Lavinia Grays and Hend Ayoub, their instant bond seems believably sincere. They address their differences carefully at first, but as Samar puts Inty into her “educational” video on head coverings and veils, they discover the depths of difference and the unaddressed attitudes that their backgrounds have carved into them. Their friendship develops with wonderful energy, even as it is challenged by their faith, their nationalities, their religious practices, and their cultural imbalances.
Video displayed behind the actors moves the narrative and unfailingly creates mood and place. It is so well done that it seems essential to the script. There is only one rough spot there: the use of soliloquy for Samar to describe a rally gone very wrong requires sustained shock and terror of the actress over too many lines.
The writing - a skilled combination of passion, positioning, territoriality, and humor - makes these characters into people one wants to know better, and makes them people in whom one can place hope for the future of the planet.