The Strangest: Theatrical Event Invites Audiences to Experience Pre-Shakespeare Arabic Storytelling
By: Ellis Nassour
The Strangest is a unique theatrical event that invites audiences to experience centuries old lArabic storytelling that predates Shakespeare by entering a world theatergoers might never access. That’s particularly true now when it’s difficult for Arab artists to perform here.
The Strangest , written by Betty Shamieh (The Black Eyed, Fit for a Queen) and directed by May Adrales (Vietgone, Luce), is an immersive theater experience inspired by Albert Camus’ classic novel, The Stranger. It plays March 11 – April 1 at the Fourth Street Theatre (83 East Fourth Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue).
Audience will experience French Algiers on the brink of revolution, and witness what happens when three Arab brothers vie for the love of the same woman. Their bitter rivalry ends only when one is gunned down by a French stranger.
The play was highlighted in The New York Times Spring Arts Preview 32 Reasons to Get Off the Couch under its “Three Ways to be Part of the Show” section.
The playwright describes it as “an absurdist murder mystery loosely inspired by the unnamed Arab killed in Camus’ novel. Written by Betty Shamieh (The Black Eyed, Roar, Fit for a Queen) and directed by May Adrales (Vietgone, Luce).
The tale is set at the time French Algeria was a hybrid of Eastern and Western cultures that fascinated 20th Century writers and artists, including Camus, Jean Genet, and Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1848, Algeria was made part of France. It was the first colonization of an Arab country since the Crusades, and hundreds of thousands of Europeans immigrated and settled there. The Algerian War for Independence began over a 100 years later in 1954.
Shamieh chose to do her research in Aleppo, Syria rather than Algeria not only because Shamieh understood the Levantine dialect, but also because it ironically was deemed safer.
“As a child of Arab immigrants who became an American playwright,” she says, ” I was fascinated by the idea of Middle Eastern storytelling cafes, where a person could grab a cup of exotic coffee and listen to storytellers retell fables and myths from The Arabian Nights. It never occurred to me that the cafes were segregated all-male spaces. I met with storytellers to hear the stories that evoked the wildness of the world that was French Algiers.”
Headlining the cast is Jacqueline Antaramian (TV’s Homeland, Madam Secretary), Andrew Guilarte, Juri Henly-Cohn, Roxanna Hope Radja (Frost/Nixon; After the Fall), Louis Sallan (TV’s Blue Bloods), Alok Tewari (The Band’s Visit, Awake and Sing! (Public/NAATCO), and Brendan Titley (Macbeth/Broadway); As You Like It /(Public).
The Strangest is produced by Semitic Root, with creative producer Allison Bressi. Tickets are $25 and $45 (reserved seating and signed program).
To Purchase: Visit /www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2822899.