Entertainment :: Theatre

Language Rooms

by Obed Medina
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Thursday Jun 7, 2012
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Terry Lamb in "Language Rooms" at the Los Angeles Theatre Center
Terry Lamb in "Language Rooms" at the Los Angeles Theatre Center  (Source:David Allen Studio)

The setting is some time after 9/11 and the location is an undisclosed CIA interrogation room. There’s something menacing about the room, with its concealed instruments of torture; after all, we’re supposed to be the good guys, right? But the threat of another terrorist attack on American soil has created a climate of paranoia -- especially among a certain group.

It is in this setting that we meet Ahmed (James Asher), an Arab-American translator who is also a Muslim. He is happy to serve his country to the best of his ability, but some of his co-workers are beginning to doubt his loyalty. One of them is Nasser (William Dao), an Asian-American and an Arab-speaking Muslim.

In the interrogation room, amidst security cameras, he mentions to Ahmed that the higher-ups are questioning his loyalty. His own boss, Kevin (Mujahid Abdul-Rashid), is the instigator of such sentiments, pitting one co-worker against the other, all in the name of maximum security.

This sends Ahmed reeling with emotions that range from disbelief to anger. How can someone who has devoted all his life, to the point of dropping out of college to help out his beloved America, now be the focus of scrutiny?

Yussef El Guindi’s "Language Rooms" is a bitingly dark comedy that raises the stakes, not only for the characters in the play, but for the audience and anyone who is perceived as different in this society.

Surely, it can’t be for the reasons mentioned: Ahmed won’t shower with his co-workers and he did not fraternize with them during a televised game. But Kevin is just getting warmed up. With the introduction of a prisoner to interrogate named Samir (Terry Lamb), Ahmed is pushed beyond the brink.

Yussef El Guindi’s "Language Rooms" is a bitingly dark comedy that raises the stakes, not only for the characters in the play, but for the audience and anyone who is perceived as different in this society.

While the playwright has written it with a Muslim-American point of view, his writing is so nuanced that you can substitute any race, gender and sexual orientation into the equation and come out with the same results.

Mikiki Uesugi’s set, consisting of outdated office furniture and sparse walls, really does evoke that feeling of confusion and anonymity. Evren Odcikin’s direction is solid, showcasing the talented if somewhat clunky performances, of the four actors.

Some of the dialogue and comedy is lost on some of the performers, but generally, "Language Rooms" is a highly entertaining play that speaks to anyone who has ever felt singled-out, whether in the work environment or simply for refusing to shower with them.

"Language Rooms" runs through June 24, presented by Golden Thread Productions and the Latino Theater Company at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 South Spring St. in Los Angeles. For info and tickets, visit www.thelatc.org

Obed Medina is a playwright & theatre director in Los Angeles.

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