Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Through June 18
Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón sets his play in the apartment of a young woman named Hadeel (Kristin Couture), who is hosting a soap-opera watching party for her friends. (Apparently soap operas have more artistic and social significance in Arab countries than in our own, and sometimes figure in the observance of Ramadan.) When Hadeel’s guests arrive, they include Ahmed (Max Lloyd-Jones), Hadeel’s lover and potential bridegroom, Youssif (Kevin Matthew Reyes), Ahmed’s friend who’s also in love with Hadeel, and Bana (Natali Anna), Youssif’s increasingly suspicious girlfriend. The prevailing sexual crosscurrents are strong, and initially we seem to be watching a funny but slightly stylized sex comedy. Then, strange things begin to happen. One of the four characters mysteriously drops dead, and the play veers into meta-theatrics, calling into question much of what we have just seen.
To preserve the element of surprise, critics have been requested not to reveal details of the plot (and for the same reason, programs are not provided till after the performance). Suffice it to say that events become more complex and political, and involve a Syrian woman (Cynthia Yelle) who is not who she seems to be, and another woman, who acts as her interpreter (Nagham Wehbe).
The piece sometimes seems too cryptic and allusive for its own good, and it’s hard to respond wholeheartedly to the political implications when one is preoccupied with figuring out what the heck is going on. But director Bart DeLorenzo has cast the play well and given it a lively and stylish production. It’s always interesting, and the young multinational cast performs with considerable verve.
Designer Nina Caussa provides a handsome set, and lighting designer Katelan Braymer makes interesting use of light from an onstage television set.
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, West L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; with additional performances on Wed., May 17 and June 7 at 8 p.m. (310) 477-2055, ext. 2, or www.OdysseyTheatre.com. Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission.