“Araberlin” at the 4th Street Theatre (Closed Sunday July 19, 2015)

July 8, 2015 | Off-Broadway | Tags: ,
By Jalila Baccar
Directed by Rafael De Mussa
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

It is difficult to know precisely what playwright Jalila Baccar envisioned her award-winning play would look like on stage but it is doubtful it was anything like the disappointing production of her important drama currently running at the 4th Street Theatre in Manhattan’s East Village. This Horizon Theatre Rep production is overlong, overwrought, and depends too heavily on projections of news footage about self-radicalized youth and the impact their leaving home has upon families and friends. A modest estimate is that half of the 105 minute performance time is projections.

This is all the more disappointing since the presumed content of Ms. Baccar’s play resounds with relevance. Since 2002 (the play’s first performance), there has been a disturbing increase in the number of youth who have self-radicalized through exposure to internet (and deep web) ISIS recruitment. And the threat of terrorist attacks on the United States homeland has increased almost exponentially.

It appears that Ms. Baccar’s script has become shadowed by the video projections and her translated text secondary to technology. Additionally, the staging of the play is less than successful. Ms. Baccar’s characters and their conflicts are not developed and therefore the plot is all but impossible to delineate. The text is rich and dense but its impact on the page does not translate to the action on the stage. Both the actors and the creative team (particularly the director) are responsible for this less than satisfying production. It might be more satisfying to purchase Ms. Baccar’s script (now part of the published trilogy “The Trilogy of Future Memory”) or to watch any broadcast of CNN that deals with self-radicalization and its consequences.