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Back of the Throat
Playwright Yussef El Guindi has turned this scenario's particularly nightmarish possibilities for Arab-Americans living in a world made skittish since 9/11 into a tense 75-minute drama entitled Back of the Throat. The plot is predicated on a recent act of terroristm.
The man subjected to an increasingly ominous interrogation by two government gumshoes (one actually wears a trenchcoat shades of an old B-Movie) is Khaled (Adeel Akthar), a bewildered nebbishy writer who reminds one of a combination Woody Allen and Peter Sellers. named whose befuddled bewilderment, and unprepossessing appearance. The G-Men -- the dudish Bartlett (Jason Guy) and the rougher, tougher Carl (Jamie Effros) run the gamut from slick and sly to laughably stupid. It's one of their more comic interchanges, an argument about how to pronounce Khaled's name ( Bartlett starts with Haled and finally gets it right, commenting that "iIt's that back of the throat thing"g).
Of course, this is just the sort of behind-the-headlines political play aimed at making us re-examine preconceived ideas that Flea Theater Artistic Director Jim Simpson loves. The claustrophobic situation is a good fit for the Flea's smaller basement space with just two rows of seats abutting the wide playing area. The characters provide the company's fledgling actors known as The Bats, with plenty of opportunity to mix light and dark and the three men and one woman who comprise the cast are obviously having a wonderful time.
Adeel Akthar does a fine job of capturing Khamed's initial eager-to-please naievete, his mounting anxiety as well as adding a note of ambiguity at the end. The strange mix of accents -- British for Khamed, a rather rarefied Southern for Bartlett, and American for Carl -- adds little except confusion. The investigation is smartly staged to introduce scenes with Asfoot (Bandar Albuliwi), the terrorist to whom Khamed has been linked by a lot of less than reliable evidence. The emphasis on the unfortunate writer's sexual interests, while adding some entertaining episodes in which Erin Roth plays his disgruntled ex-girlfriend, a librarian and a sexy club dancer (all three women obviously supposed to represent post 9/11 man in the street attitudes), tends to down play the timely edginess and settle for the more cartoonish aspects of Hoover FBI era. Consequently, we never really forget where we are to become part of Khamed's nightmare, but remain aware that we're watching a play.
More than likely it will take the end of the current war and years of reflection to produce a play that will help us to really understand what went wrong and our feelings. In the meantime, Back of the Throat, is well staged, entertaining (even if this may sound oxymoronic in relation to a play about terror and torture) and acquaints us with the work of a playwright worth watching.
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Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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