I Come in Peace
nytheatre.com review by Maggie Cino
August 11, 2006
On September 11, 2001, Dean Obeidallah stopped being a white guy. Before then, he felt no connection to his Arabic heritage. His father was from the Middle East, but his identity centered on his New Jersey classmates and overprotective Sicilian mother. But soon after that fateful day, he became conscious of his strange last name and worried about family members who were receiving unwanted violent attention. That plus his father's death two years prior sent him on a journey of self-discovery.
These days, Obeidallah is a stand up comic, but earlier in his life he was a lawyer. This combination means he can pack in evidence in a very funny way. He defines what it means to be an Arab, lets us know what country Arabs come from and the difference between an Arab and a Muslim. He shows us scenes from a few of the 350 films where Arabs have been portrayed as gun-toting terrorists. There are also a few very funny spoofs, including a special from "Fox News: We Make Shit Up!" about the different types of Arabs. But the heart and the structure of I Come in Peace is the story of Obeidallah's life and his observations about his father, although it is impossible to not be aware of Obeidallah's mother, as he is constantly fielding phone calls from her, assuring her that he hasn't forgotten that he's half Italian, too.
Obeidallah's laid-back delivery puts the audience at ease, and Negin Farsad's direction keeps the play moving. However, the show continues 15 minutes after the story is over, as Obeidallah starts listing facts, anecdotes, and jokes that don't fit into the main body of the story. Still, for the most part it's a tight, well-told piece. At the New York International Fringe Festival, it's good entertainment. But what would be really wonderful is for this piece to tour throughout the country, where it might become much, much more.