Reviews

A Good Day To Me Not To You ***1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

November 21, 2023: Having enjoyed Lameece Issaq’s Food and Fatwa, at New York Theater Workshop 12-years-ago, it’s interesting to see how the playwright is evolving. That earlier work, about the everyday lives of a Palestinian family, as bombs drop on their heads, still breathed with the warmth and sweet aromas of Mideastern cooking. With Issaq as the sister who reigns in the kitchen, the play was a traditional family drama, with a full cast of characters.

Lameece Issaq

By: Isa Goldberg

November 21, 2023: Having enjoyed Lameece Issaq’s Food and Fatwa, at New York Theater Workshop 12-years-ago, it’s interesting to see how the playwright is evolving. That earlier work, about the everyday lives of a Palestinian family, as bombs drop on their heads, still breathed with the warmth and sweet aromas of Mideastern cooking. With Issaq as the sister who reigns in the kitchen, the play was a traditional family drama, with a full cast of characters.

Here, in A Good Day to Me Not to You, her solo showatThe Connelly Theater, her focus is of a more personal nature: herself – her being a woman, of a certain age. Set in New York City, at her residence at St. Agnes Convent, Issaq speaks with simplicity, as if she were a mother talking to her children.

Being “Woman” – that is actually the character’s name – motherhood is the primary theme of the piece. Not a specific mother, mind you, nor a mother to a specific person, but the generic idea of a mother. And in the genus of Woman, motherhood is most central.

Lameece Issaq

Still, for this woman, who is of a certain age, it’s a complicated matter. Justifying her need to have a baby, Issaq points to the poverty that drove her to living in a convent. More importantly, she reflects on the loss of a loved one, the lack of belonging, and the need to care for another person. 

What stands out about her performance is the clarity of the relationships she creates between each of the characters – not an easy task when you’re alone on the stage. But through her imagination, Issaq vividly creates the other characters in her story, showing us who they are to her, and how they have shaped her experience, and she theirs. Inviting us into her world, as she did in Food and Fatwa, even under the most stressful circumstances, expresses the generosity of her gift.

Large as it is, the stage is mostly bare, and it feels chilly. That is the reality. But, the illusion of it is created through her description, “The place is designed with a grandmother’s touch, if that grandmother had late stage dementia. It’s all mismatched furniture,” she tells us.

That is truly not the case, as there is nothing more than a bench on the stage. She continues, saying, “The walls are held up by endless coats of canary yellow paint and covered in Christ: baby, crucified, risen.” 

Lameece Issaq

In the way it is lit, the stage walls look like a dull pink, and there is only a single, understated crucifixion. Apparently, for Issaq, illusion and reality, her inner life and the real world are too influx, to anticipate the balance. 

Regardless of what is actually on stage, however, the nauseating layers of yellow paint and bloody religious imagery feel quite real. It’s her words that paint the pictures that she sees, and that we see with her.

Of course, there are additional reasons for the unadorned set (Peiyi Wong), and simple lighting (Mextly Couzin), including the fact that they cost money. Poor theatre, such as it is, values the body of the actor. And so it is here.

In addition, Issaq’s has a delicate, and exacting pen. Mining the paradox of her being Woman, she comments on her gender dysphoria, confessing, “I would have liked to be a monk. Not a nun, but a monk. A male. Uterus-less. I don’t think it’s possible to live in the quiet of spiritual solitude with this desire for children inside me. It’s just too loud.” 

Lameece Issaq

It’s ironic, and funny to imagine a woman in a convent, so angry at the binary world. Her subtle humor is enjoyable. But as one fears in such a vanity endeavor – it can get monotonous to hear someone carry on about themselves – especially when it’s focused on an inner life. 

In a way, what Issaq identifies in herself, is the opposite of a Barbie complex. To the contrary, Woman, in A Good Day literally prostitutes herself to collect “splooge,” as she calls it.

But, the series of events – an abusive love affair intended to get her pregnant, and a stint with a dental patient start to blur. The audience can see where it’s heading…and how her psyche is exploding. But it becomes somewhat nonspecific, when it’s that easy to lose track. 

To that end, the production is too smooth, as if it were all one note. At moments, where the actor could break through the frame, and grab us with theatricality, she just doesn’t. 

Still, Lee Sunday Evans direction is true to the spirit of the performance piece about Woman, and her journey to something more precious than life itself– her family. 

A Good Day To Me Not To You ***1/2
Waterwell
The Connelly Theater
220 East 4th Street in Manhattan
Monday-Saturday, 7pm
Matinees at 2pm on Nov. 18 & 25 and Dec. 2, 9 & 16
November 8 – Dec. 16, 2023
Photography: Maria Baranova