Total Rating: 
May 21, 2017
Other Theater Company
Theater Type: 
The Greenhouse
Theater Address: 
2257 North Lincoln Avenue
Yussef El Guindi

If you're going to write a play discussing gender issues in the Middle East, it certainly doesn't hurt to introduce it with three attractive young people—a man and woman wearing PJs and a third man wearing nothing but an eager smile—occupying a king-sized bed.

We are in the apartment of author Leila and photographer Rashid. Leila's book recounting her fact-finding trip to Egypt during the 2011 Cairo Uprising is to be published soon, and Rashid anticipates his appointment as its graphic designer. Tonight, however, Leila has invited co-worker Doug to join them in their conjugal frolics — a whim that Rashid reluctantly agrees to indulge — but whenever the would-be whoopee shows hints of commencing, it stalls out under the hostess's real agenda, which is to observe and analyze the men's response to her audacious proposal. As the carnal prospects grow ever more remote, Leila's need to exorcise lingering memories of injuries sustained on her recent travels becomes increasingly apparent, as does the ineptitude of privileged males — even those of benign intent — at assisting in her recovery.

Yussef El Guindi is no stranger to the inequities promulgated by patriarchal imperatives in volatile societies throughout the world, and thus, is not content with reducing complex sexual dynamics and social contracts based thereon to facile "men-as-wolves, women-as-lambs" dichotomies. To be sure, Rashid and Doug both struggle mightily to establish dominance of a dynamic rendered even more discomforting by Leila's repeated obstruction of their efforts to do so. This is not merely shrewishness on her part, though. After more than an hour of discourse — during which Doug's visions of debauchery are denied, Rashid discovers the extent of his ignorance as regards his lover's excoriation of government-sanctioned abuse, and Leila is told that her book cover is to depict her in full colonialist-fantasy veiled-to-the-eyebrows Arabian Nights drag — the source of her anger becomes manifest.

Under Jason Gerace's deft direction, Suzan Faycurry, Demetrios Troy, and Mike Tepeli display uniform expertise at imposing conversational rhythms on potentially didactic dialogue (especially Tepeli, who must carry out his duties while engaging in buck-naked dumb-white-boy antics bordering on tasteless vulgarity). Their unswerving aplomb ensures that our bewilderment at arriving with expectations of slap-and-tickle farce only to be cockblocked by "a seminar with no clothes" does not eclipse our powers of comprehension. Intellectual potency counts, too.

This review first appeared in Windy City Times, 5/17
Mary Shen Barnidge
Date Reviewed: 
May 2017