Silk Road Risings presents the Midwest Premiere of INVASION.
Within the first ten minutes, this show establishes itself as unconventional… startlingly so. And then the avant-garde artistry continues. Sometimes, the play is a play within a play. Sometimes, it’s a TV show or a lecture with an interpreter. Playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri used multiple mediums to convey discrimination against Arab men. Although the subject matter is serious, the tone isn’t always. It can be playful like a scene where a guy is picking up a girl at a bar. Later, when a translator misrepresents a foreigner, the intensity is uncomfortable. One scene is cute. The other is heart-wrenching. They are
so wildly different, their inclusion in the same play is odd.
Khemiri’s storytelling is a hodge-podge of stories and styles. In an ongoing shtick, a television panel debates the locale of the notorious Abulkasem. Their interaction is media sensationalism buffoonery. This funny sketch format is weirdly contrasting to the dramatic end monologue. Even within that narration, Khemiri’s details confuse the oration. “Why is that included in the story?” is a question I continually asked myself throughout the show. I understand Khemiri’s broad strokes in painting the prejudicial global landscape. It’s his minutiae that convolute the essences.
Director Anna Bahow introduces the variety show-like segments with tight pacing. Her staging of the unconventional introduction is unforgettably impressive. The talented and animated cast, Kamal Harris, Amira Sabbagh, Glenn Stanton, and Omer Abbas Salem, evolve effectively into multiple roles. Within Khemiri’s ambitious spectrum, the cast embrace a variety of distinct personas.
If I had to sum up this play in one word, I’d say ‘Abulkasem.’ That word is defined during the play as having multiple meanings and sometimes misinterpreted. INVASION had a lot to say in a lot of different ways. I heard it all. I just didn’t understand the purpose of all the parts in this amalgamation.
Running Time: Eighty minutes with no intermission
At The Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington
Written by Jonas Hassen Khemiri
Translated by Rachel Wilson-Broyles
Directed by Anna Bahow
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 4pm
Sundays at 4pm
Thru September 1st
Buy Tickets from www.silkroadrising.org