Sunday, August 18, 2013

Invasion at Silk Road Rising

Picture courtesy of  Silk Road Rising

Invasion by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, the Swedish playwright under Anna C. Bahow's direction at Silk Road Rising revives poignant experience of exiled, emigrant Middle Easterners as well as presents a clear understanding of their conditions revealed to western audience. Being half Tunisian half Swedish, enables Khemiri to perceive deep comprehensive  political and psychological dimensions of today’s world divided into the neo-colonialists and powerless people. He cleverly brings to light the crisis of identity of those who-- for any reason-- have left their native countries where he demonstrates this notion that the power balance in the world is still based on the master-slave relationship as well as racial prejudices.
A scene from One Thousand and one Night at the beginning of the play distracted by the two young men sitting among the audience proves this view that the old version of orientalistic view has replaced with a new style of orientalistic approach. The TV interview scenes verify Edward Said’s words: "So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Muslims and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists.”

Watching the play brought to my mind the 1974 German film: “Ali: Fear Eats theSoul” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Venus Noire directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. With almost similar context, the mood of the play is completely different. Khemiri is from a young generation where he approaches serious subjects with youthful mode, fast pace, rapping rhythm, humor and sarcasm. He uses an ebullient tone, broken language, authoritarian language, the language of media, unfinished sentences  and …new way of  story telling to portray a true picture of restless, displaced people…

Based on the philosophy of linguistics in our modern time where language has been created, formed, developed, and revolutionized freely by diverse people, the authorities, at the same time, used their own politics of language to create an environment of fear, accusation and domination.
In such atmosphere Khemiri’s words explain clearly what the immigrant apple picker’s scene is all about: “Your words can be used against you, no matter what you say. Even silence can be interpreted in a way that is in line with clichés.”

The last monologue could have been conveyed better with theatrical action. It was delivered without the technical power of storytelling. In the symphony of words, I wanted to see what really happened to the character…I wanted to see the urgency of NOW…The emotional value of words… the emphasis on certain words…   the presence…the physical presence….the eye movement…the movement of the mouth…the tongue...the fingers....the silences…

Kamal Hans, Amira Sabbagh, Dan Johnson, Glenn Stanton, Omer Abbas Salem gave the best performances.

Invasion is a play that should not be missed.
Invasion will run until September 1st at Silk Road Rising at the Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington Ave.
Tickets: $35
 (312) 857-1234, ext. 201
Run time: 90 minutes, with no intermission

I met  Jonas Hassen Khemiri in Stockholm, last year, after a performance. He was bored and somehow furious about the whole play. It was Saturday night in August, wild music, marathons and people were heavily drinking. Jonas was with his bike and I, walking beside him...everywhere was a dead-end. We managed to find a place to sit and talk. When we separated, I was left with a deep internal challenge!

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