The great divide of 2016 has made it clearer than ever before that there are liberal prejudices and conservative ones. All of them, of course, are illiberal, and results of a closed mind and set assumptions.
In his The Profane, at Playwrights Horizons through April 30th, Zayd Dohrn explores the kind of intolerance that springs in familiar territory.
Raif (Ali Reza Farahnakian) is sure he knows the people amongst whom he grew up; he came from the Middle East as a student, and stayed in the U.S. where he became a relatively celebrated author. He is a secularist. He tells his daughter Emina (Tala Ashe), who is yearning for connections, “We have no tribe.” Emina’s older sister Aisa (Francis Benhamou, in a dual role) is the wild child with whom Raif feels the greater bond.
Raif applies his internecine bigotry to Emina’s choice of a boyfriend. Sam (Babak Tafti) is the son of an observant Muslim family. Sam’s parents, Peter (Ramsey Faragallah) and Carmen (Lanna Joffrey) are just the kind of “people” Raif has prejudged, and from whom he wishes to distance himself. Emina sees her identity as tied to this “tribe.” While she seeks connection and community, both Raif and her mother Naja (Heather Raffo), see something more sinister.
Dohrn’s superb new play is written with nuance and finesse. The people in The Profane are brought to life so fully and intelligently as to feel like our neighbors, possibly those with whom we have never bothered to interact. Dohrn shows great respect for the characters he has created.
Under the well-timed direction of Kip Fagan, the cast provokes and challenges us into countering our assumptions. Standing out in this ensemble is not easy, but we all have our partiality, and ours is for the wonderful Tala Ashe, the lovely Heather Raffo, and the delightful Ramsey Faragallah. Bias aside, everyone on this stage was inspiring.
The sets, by Takeshi Kata, for the small Peter Jay Sharp Theater are both sumptious and lavish as if ready for a Broadway production. May we suggest that @PHnyc consider taking this excellent production intact to a Broadway stage?