November 15, 2005
By Fabrizio O. Almeida
What if Neil Simon wrote a loveable comedy about a Muslim-American family trying to hold itself together amidst the misunderstandings that run amuck and the comedy that ensues when the generations collide? It would probably resemble something like the surprisingly enjoyable, charming and oftentimes hilarious Ten Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith, a Silk Road Theatre Project production of a world-premiere by Muslim playwright Yussef El Guindi.
Like Simon, El Guindi proves himself a talented comedy craftsman with a carefully paced, easily digestible, episodic format replete with genuinely funny one-liners that land the humor in the most unexpected of moments. But Ten Acrobats, with an uncomplicated plot about immigrant parents that lose their grip as they lose their children to multiculturalism, delivers their familiar dysfunctions through the added prism of today's social and political attitudes towards Muslims, imbuing issues of assimilation, atheism, feminism and sexuality with topical urgency. Despite a somewhat schmaltzy feel-good ending, an immensely talented and likeable company of actors brings an authentic family dynamic to the entire proceedings. This is an auspicious Chicago debut for playwright El Guindi, one that smartly stimulates the intellect as well as the funny bone.