THE LONELINESS OF A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
Fringe Festival Theater Review
by Harvey Perr
published August 20, 2007
photo by Jordan Craven
at The Players Theatre Loft in
see below for schedule
When one leaves the Players Theatre Loft Space on MacDougal Street after seeing Robert Schneider’s “Dirt,” one is immediately
confronted by the fact that, even after 9/11, New Yorkers live in a multi-ethnic world with ease and comfort, to the point where even a
hint of racism is erased from one’s consciousness. One sees it in the swirl of faces, in the variety of mankind, in the restaurants
offering Middle Eastern and Ethiopian cuisine, in the shop offering crafts from the Himalayas. Then one turns the corner to get, ironically
enough, to the Avenue of the Americas, and walks down the quiet, dark street of Minetta Lane, wrapped up again in the skin of one’s
loneliness and isolation. In one minute, it is easy to forget the harrowing experience of having seen “Dirt,” and, in the next moment, the
experience returns to challenge us. If only the experience were richer and more terse – a howl of pain flung full in our faces – rather
than the protracted European art piece, with its literary pretensions, that “Dirt” ultimately is. It is difficult to say whether it is Schneider’s play that is at fault or Paul Dvorak’s translation, but
one suspects that it is the play itself.
One does not question the passion and commitment of the play, the myriad ways it sinks its teeth into the subject of racism and
reflects the self-hatred which racism unleashes in the lonely heart of the outsider, but, in the end, one is somewhat removed from the
anguish of Sad (short for Saddam) – the Iraqi immigrant alienated from his adopted environment who sells flowers to earn his paltry living
(there are as many dead roses on the stage as there are fresh red ones) – rather than being transported into his soul. A slap in the face
is sometimes preferable to a hammering lecture which, for all the truths contained within it, is still a lecture, repetitious and nagging
when it means to be incantatory and mesmerizing.
It is not the fault of Christopher John Domig, the sole actor on
stage, who, as Sad, gives a beautifully modulated performance, projecting, as he does, not merely the intensity and the anger and the pain of
his character, but also his warmth, his humor, his humanity. As a showcase for his rich acting talents, “Dirt” is an honorable choice. One
looks forward to seeing Mr. Domig again as much as one wishes “Dirt” were uglier and darker and infinitely less self-conscious.
remaining schedule for Dirt
Tuesday August 21 at 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday August 22 at 8:00 p.m.
call 1-888-FringeNYC for tickets
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com