Los Angeles Theater Review: LANGUAGE ROOMS (Los Angeles Theatre Center)

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by Tony Frankel on June 16, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles


Go see Language Rooms now. I bought a ticket with no intention of a review, but Yussef El Guindi is far and away one of the most exciting new playwrights I have heard in years. The story takes place in an unnamed interrogation facility at an undisclosed location, and translator and interrogator Ahmed finds that his loyalty to the CIA and his adopted country, the U.S.A., is suddenly questioned. What could have been a play about issues – terrorism, 9/11, displaced Muslims in a new world – becomes an engaging, funny, scary tale about family, identity and more. Guindi avoids an agitation propaganda approach and lets the story tell itself. This is theatre that makes you think about universal themes that affect all of us. The script could use some trimming, blah-blah-blah, dramaturgical notes inserted here, but I have not been this worked up about a playwright since Tarell Alvin McCraney, who, since my 2010 review of Marcus at A.C.T., has joined Steppenwolf’s esteemed ensemble in Chicago.

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles review of Language Rooms at LATCAnother reason to attend now is the performance of James Asher as Ahmed; the raw nerves and vulnerability displayed by Asher makes it one of the best performances you will see all year. Two of the other actors, Terry Lamb and Mujahid Abdul-Rashid, are very good, but the fourth actor, Will Dao, seems simply miscast as an interrogator – blah-blah-blah, acting notes inserted here – but fortunately that does not detract from the script itself.

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles review of Language Rooms at LATCLastly (because I want you to get your tickets NOW), the direction by San Francisco-based Evren Odcikin finds moments of truth and humor that are rich and haunting; still, there is a lack of tension, blah-blah-blah, directing notes inserted here, and placing one of the actors to perform monologues in the audience is distracting, but listen, who cares? Unless Language Rooms is picked up by a major theater (hopefully Asher will also be picked up as well), this may be your only chance to see it. Go now.

photos by David Allen Studio

The Language Rooms
presented by Golden Thread Productions and the Latino Theatre Company at LATC
scheduled to end on June 24
for tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit http://thelatc.org

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