March 8, 2010
By Tom Williams
Theatre meets science when a diverse group of playwrights each agree to take a genealogical DNA test and revisit their assumptions about identity politics and the perennial “who am I” question. Self, family, community, and ethnicity are all up for grabs.
The Artistic Director of the Silk Road Theatre Project, Jamil Khoury’s idea for a series of short plays centering on the genealogical DNA test has produced an intriguing evening of theatre. The seven plays contain humor, fantasy, personal revelation and poignancy.
Play #1 Finding Your Inner Zulu by Elizabeth Wong cutely introduces us to DNA as Asian-American basketball player Cricket (Jennifer Shin) wanting to alter her DNA in order to make her tall enough for the WNBA. This is a fascinationfantastical journey rich in humor.
Play #2 Mother Road by Velina Hasu Houston is look at family ties blood or genetic ties as Peretua (Jennifer Shin) travels into the Mojave Desert to find Eva (Fawzia Mirza) with whom she shares a mother.
Play #3 That Could Be You by Lina Patel. We meet Addy (Cora Vander Broek), Teddy (Khurram Mozaffar), Cyndy (Melissa Kong) and Gene (Clayton Stamper)–all these are products of their environment or products of their genes? What if we switch roles with them person next to us- would we be the same person or would our new environment change who we are. This play was funny and telling. This smart piece deals nicely with our expectations about genetics, parenthood and identity.
Play #4 WASP: White Arab Slovak Pole by Jamil Khoury is an intelligent, honest presentation by Jamil Khoury of his unique ethnic identity and the Silk Road Theatre Project. Jamil is a WASP – White Arab Slovak Pole. Clayton Stamper deftly plays Jamil as he navigates his character through the cultural confusion with ample doses of humor. This play points out how a person’s name and skin color can produce assumptions about a person. Khoury’s writing sure makes us laugh as well as demonstrating that tags and looks don’t necessarily indicate true character.
Play #5 Bolt from the Blue by Shishir Kurup finds Rishi (Khurram Mozaffar) on the phone and Internet speaking to his mother and his young cousin, Hari (Clayton Stamper) tells Rishi about his depression and schizophrenia and how he tried to commit suicide in Scotland. Lingering in Rishi’s mind is the possibility of DNA spreading the mental disorder.
Play #6 A Very DNA Reunion by David Henry Hwang finds teenage Bob (Clayton Stamper) with his real DNA family that includes Cleopatra ( Fawzia Mirza), Genghis Khan (Anthony Peeples), Ninja dude (Khurram Mozaffar) in his bedroom while his parents keep bugging him to find a job. This funny play spoofs the imprecise science of DNA.
Play #7 Child Is Father to Man by Phillip Kan Gotanda finds a man (Khurram Mozaffar) reflects on his dead father in a emotionally wrenching monologue of self discovery about being a child, a parent and a man. Quite poetic and beautiful, this short play explores both the intimacy and the remoteness of family.
I enjoyed the diversity of styles as each of the seven playwrights put an artistic spin on the issue of DNA, heredity and environment as each contribute their take on who they are as part of the American melting pot. the acting was outstanding, particularly from Clayton Stamper. Kudos to Jamil Khoury for shepherding this project on to the stage.