For those not interested in filling your face with popcorn while watching United 93 in a crowded movie theater, Back of the Throat, now in an extended run at the Flea Theater, provides a topical and entertaining look at how a terrorist attack conjures up fear, racism, and the loss of civil liberties.
Yussef El Guindi’s brilliantly woven play, directed stylishly by Jim Simpson, begins as an innocent interrogation of Khaled (Adeel Akhtar), an Arab-American writer, after an unnamed terrorist attack in the United States. The play takes a sickly turn when the two homeland security officers discover Khaled owns questionable books and ordinary porn. As I own some of the same books in question and maybe even porno or two, will a day come when I too could be accused of terrorism? How do our belongings define us and how do these definitions change according to the color of our skin? As an actor, Akhtar captures beautifully the pride of being American, the fear of being the hunted, and the intelligence of a man who sees both sides of an issue.
Unfortunately for Akhtar, his level of acting is not mimicked by the bulk of the cast. Much of the play comes off as an excersise for the actors to practice regional accents. Their accents gave a sophomoric quality to the sophisticated script. Jason Guy who uses a fake Southern accent to play Bartlett, one of the homeland security officers, sounds like he is trying to play a dumb Southern stereotype instead of the complex character that is written. But alas the fake Southern accent does not stop there. Erin Roth in an attempt to differentiate her multiple roles falls back on the accent when playing a stripper and again the character’s intricacies become lost. However, not all accents were in vain, Bandar Albuliwi, who plays Asfoor, uses a Middle Eastern accent flawlessly and most poignantly in a monologue about the power of language.
Back of the Throat is the most successful response to the 9/11 attacks that I have seen on the stage. It addresses issues that have been minimally reported on by our press while using comedy to point out our own prejudices and realities.
Back of the Throat is playing at the Flea Theater from May 11 – July 1, Thursday – Saturday at 7 PM. The Flea Theater is located at 41 White Street (between Broadway and Church Streets). Tickets are $20 and may be purchased by calling 212-352-3101 or by visiting www.theatermania.com.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.