offoffoff theater



Site links
  • Contact us

    Get our newsletter:
    Search the site:

    Theater section
  • Theater main page
  • Theater archive
  • Theater links

    Current theater

  • Fall Briefs
  • Nick


    Complete archive, 1999-present

    2008-2009 reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
  • beast: a parable
  • Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire
  • Blasted
  • Buffalo Gal
  • China: The Whole Enchilada
  • The Corn Maiden
  • Crawl, Fade to White
  • Doruntine
  • Extraordinary Rendition
  • The First Breeze of Summer
  • Fringe Festival 2008
  • Fringe Festival favorites
  • The Glass Cage
  • Hair
  • Hidden Fees* (A Play About Money)
  • Jailbait
  • King of Shadows
  • The Longest Running Joke of the Twentieth Century
  • Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
  • Macbeth
  • The Master Builder
  • Missa Solemnis, or The Play About Henry
  • Mourn the Living Hector
  • A Nasty Story
  • Nowadays
  • the october crisis (to laura)
  • Oresteia
  • Other Bodies
  • Prayer
  • Psalms of a Questionable Nature
  • Raised by Lesbians
  • Reasonable Doubt
  • Sleepwalk With Me
  • Small Craft Warnings
  • Something Weird . . . in the Red Room
  • Soul Samurai
  • The Sound of One Hanna Clapping
  • Southern Promises
  • The Third from the Left
  • Twelfth Night
  • Voices from Guantánamo
  • The Wendigo
  • Zombie



    ESL is other people

    "Refugees" is an impressive one-woman performance about an English class in which each student has a dark story from the old country.

    By TOM X. CHAO

    "Refugees," a solo show, seems at first small and self-contained, but draws one immediately into its inter-continental scope. Stephanie Satie, the writer and performer, appears as the instructor for an English as a Second Language class. She speaks and gestures to the audience as if to the students, but thankfully avoids plunging into the trap of audience interaction (from which there is no escape).

    Written and performed by: Stephanie Satie.
    Directed by: Anita Khanzadian.
    Arthur's Dress Shop
    141 Ridge St.
    Fringe Festival 2002, Aug. 9-25, 2002

    Fringe Festival 2002

    • Show listings

    • All American Boy
    • Beat
    • Confessions of an Art School Model
    • Deviant
    • The Joys of Sex
    • Living London
    • Naked Girls Drinking
    • Out to Lunch
    • Portrait of a President
    • Refugees
    • Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk
    • Room to Swing an Axe
    • Sajjil
    • Star
    • Seeing Each Other
    • Up Your Rabbit Hole
    • The Welcoming Committee

    • ASPIC
    • Stalking Christopher Walken
    • Wet Blue and Friends

    Other Fringe Festivals
    • Fringe 2000
    • Fringe 2001
    Immediately she turns the scene around and seamlessly slides into the characters of the students in the class. With pitch-perfect delivery, Satie transmogrifies into (among others) a Latvian, a Muscovite, two different Iranians, and a Uzbek taxi driver — who is a man, to boot. Not only that, but she then skips between these characters as they question, respond, and cajole each other in rapid-fire fashion.

    Initially, the students introduce themselves as they struggle with the difference between the words "wish" and "hope," which seems an unbearably hokey device. Yet Satie grounds each of the students in very real, concrete details, and doesn't let one dwell on the choice of subject matter. Quickly, the talk turns from hoping for jobs or spouses, to the stories of repression and violence that they have fled in their homelands. These are the stories not just of immigrants but of refugees. Clearly, this material represents a distillation of the experiences that Satie experienced as an ESL teacher. She does not overplay the harrowing nature of the stories of institutionalized repression but invests the characters with quiet dignity as they recount their stories with the matter-of-factness of people who have seen too much and lived to tell about it.

    One such is the story of Farideh, an Iranian woman who saw her family killed and fled the country as the only girl in a truck full of young boys. Such stories are exactly what Americans need to hear right now to further an understanding of world politics rather than continue gazing into the collective navel lint of Adam Sandler movies and televised wrestling.

    Gradually we see how the students' stories and confessions act on the teacher, and cause her to explore her own story. Here, Satie explores her own background as the child of Jewish immigrants who have, with overwhelming assimilationist tendencies, instilled her with unfortunate self-hatred. In the oft-maligned one-person-show formula, one would expect the floodgates of the self-indulgent confessional mode to open wide here, but Satie manages to make her points about coming to grips with the unhappy detritus of her family life without bogging down.

    In terms of staging, the tiny stage at Arthur's Dress Shop contains only a few chairs and a table for this show. A colorful bifurcated world map dominates the set. This set piece provides a subtle touch as, if one looks closely, one sees it is not a map but a painting of a map, la Jasper Johns, a sly commentary on the theatrical nature of this work.

    A very few references betray the show's age, over four years; however, these do not detract. One might also wish that the title of the show (and the accompanying promotional photo) would do more to convey its complexity and depth. But it is a testament to Satie's ability to, that she managed to hold the audience's attention while fighting a mighty uphill battle against the confines of Arthur's Dress Shop, sweltering in the summer heat with two air conditioners blowing but achieving nothing but to drown out some of the dialogue. Despite all these obstacles, Satie has created a solid, mature, intelligent show.

    AUGUST 14, 2002

    Post a comment on "Refugees"