Really engrossing theater is popping up in New York. Some of it the offshoot of numerous summer festivals – The Midtown Festival, Summer Shorts, along with the diverse international festival at Lincoln Center.
The Fringe Festival with a series of productions from around the world brings us DIRT. The most frequently performed solo show in Austria arrives here in English translation, performed by a startling young actor whose name Christopher Domig, will not remain unknown for long. Watching Domig in DIRT brings to mind a young Dustin Hoffman or Al Pacino when they were just starting off Broadway.
The fire and vigor in this young actor’s eyes keeps us peeled to his thoughts, his are the calculated and triggered ruminations of a desperate, alienated man. As written by Robert Schneider, Sad speaks to us simply in the English he’s mastered so beautifully since he came to this country. His descriptions are simple and often repeated, but they create a fluid, mercurial picture of this Iraqi immigrant living in any big Westernized city which could even be New York. While we never pierce his identity, Sad reveals himself to us through his lies. Maybe that’s how he’s learned to live in this country, to survive. Or maybe as he tells us, “lying is a mental thing with us. It’s part of our anatomy.”
At any rate, “My name is Sad.” That’s what he tells us in the beginning and while he reiterates this numerous times throughout his monologue, he later asks, challenging us, “Well is my name Hassan?” Later he’ll tell us his name is really Ahmed. And to punctuate it. “That’s the truth.” He sounds resolved.
Eating an onion, its pungent aroma permeating the small space of the rehearsal studio, he apologies in a self-deprecating manner, “I know that I’m soon bringing your sewer system to overflowing with my urine.”
Clearly, hatred is the underlying theme in Sad’s sad life. He knows how people feel about him and about the taxes they pay to support him, about the space he takes up, about the public toilets he uses, about the money he collects selling roses. The way the scent of
onion permeates the surroundings, that’s the way hatred permeates Sad’s world. He is the outsider, at one with the way in which the outside world perceives him. Speaking of himself in the third person, he even describes the physical traits of his dark skinned race in a self-deprecating fashion, comparing himself to the pale skinned people he sees around him.
The weightiness of his message about racial hatred never overcomes the nuanced characterization, itself a transfixing object of attention. The production, sensitively directed by David Robinson will sadly have only a few performances at The Players Theatre Loft Space on MacDougal St ending on August 22nd. See it if you can.
By: Isa Goldberg