nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
August 15, 2012
The Story of One Thousand and One Nights, of Sheherizade and her murderous King is a familiar one, known around the world. Sheherizade keeps her life by telling a new story to the king every night. Since she always ends on a cliffhanger, the King’s curiosity keeps her alive for another day. As he listens, he learns kindness, compassion, and wisdom, and finally love. Bathwater Production’s adaptation of Sheherizade is a collage of story telling. The actors use communal storytelling, classical storytelling, shadow play, movement, song, and slam to bring this famous tale to life.
The ensemble play all the roles and switch characters from tale to tale. The role of Sheherizade also changes with every scene; one Sheherizade hands over a rich, red headscarf to the next one, as she takes over the storytelling. The cast moves beautifully, becoming windows, doors, birds, lions and various other characters, both wise and foolish.
In this production, Sheherizade tales have a regional flavor for each one; Middle Eastern, African, and European. Costumer Patricia Sehar Peerzada’s design is elegant, simple, and colorfully sumptuous. Music Designer Jamie Pittle provides all the sounds and music. Pittle and his drum kit sit on the upstage right corner of the stage, but his work is a commanding presence, highlighting the tales. Using chimes, breezily light beats and then pounding rhythms, he breathes life to the illusions the cast creates. Indeed, both Peerzada’s and Pittle’s work are standouts in this wonderful production.
Playwright Aidaa Peerzada’s story and language are rich and sonorous, but only 40 minutes long. I wish it could have been longer, despite some lags in timing. The whole production, under Artistic Director Anne Marie Bookwalter and Director Priscilla Garcia, capture an old fairytale and bring it beautifully to earthy, human life. “Every man must claim to his destiny,” Sheherizade tells her king. It seems clear that this adaptation of Sheherizade is destined to have a vibrant future.