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  •  REVIEW: THE EARTH'S SHARP EDGE

    The Earth's Sharp Edge

    Fez under glass

    An American student holds a microscope to his stay in Morocco and the hassle he received trying to get back into the states, in the original and heartfelt "The Earth's Sharp Edge."

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    Be sure to leave your drugs at home. Same for your bombs, guns, kitchen knives, lighters, bootleg DVDs, and any reading material remotely connected to terrorism. You will be questioned at the entrance to the theater.

      
    THE EARTH'S SHARP EDGE
    Written by: Gina E. Cline, Kent Davis-Packard, Michael Fegley, Muni Kulasinghe, Tatiana Mallarino, Thaddeus Phil.
    Directed by: Thaddeus Phillips.
    Cast: Gina E. Cline, Kent Davis-Packard, Michael Fegley, Muni Kulasinghe, Tatiana Mallarino, Thaddeus Phillips, Gareth Saxe.
    In English with some French and Arabic without subtitles.
     SCHEDULE
    La Mama Experimental Theater
    74A East 4th St.
    May 1-18, 2003

    "I need you to take a sip of that before you enter," a uniformed man instructs one audience member who's carrying a drink.

    "Take a sip of it?" she asks, puzzled.

    "Yes, ma'am," he replies in his official monotone. She complies and is allowed to enter the theater with her non-explosive beverage. The guy behind her takes a swig of his drink without being told.

    As we passengers find our seats and the lights go down, one last traveler arrives at the terminal.

    "Passport?" says the inspector, adding: "Sir, your fly is open."

    Finding suspicious materials including an Arabic-language business card among his effects, the inspector asks the returning American — a beginning student of Arabic on his way back from Fez, Morocco — what it says.

    "Foondook Terminoooos," the student enunciates carefully. " 'Foondook' means hotel and 'Terminoos' means, uh, terminoos."

    Wise guys, as writer-director Thaddeus Phillips appears to have learned in a real-life ordeal at JFK International, finish last when it comes to getting out of the airport and going home. So he took this experience as a starting point for a fun, thoughtful and often ingeniously staged play about our relationship as Americans with the larger world.


      
    It's a travelogue with certain political undertones, posing a few questions about our place in the world and challenging us to think about our relationship with Arab people. That's a start, and it's done with good humor, fresh ideas and brisk pacing.  

      
    The play jumps in time between the young man's security check, his experience in Morocco, and a 1969 airplane hijacking story that has captured his fascination. Some of its best moments have to do with the sense of partial understanding one gets in the middle of a foreign culture. In a combination of English, imperfect French and beginner's Arabic, the characters get through daily-life interactions and share their ideas about how the world looks from different spots on the globe.

    One especially funny scene (moreso if you understand French numbers) comes when our student tries to buy shoes from an old man, whose idea of haggling is to offer prices almost at random. In another scene, a Moroccan invites the student in for tea and talk, explaining in a melange of half-understood languages the implications of the round, north-pole-on-top globe on the way people think. Respond however you wish to his point, but the play nicely captures the experience of a foreign visitor who arrives with his eyes and ears open and returns home with some new insights gleaned from amid the confusion and exhilaration of a new place.

    The play doesn't send us away with a nice, conclusive message — it's more of a travelogue with certain political undertones, posing a few questions about our place in the world and challenging us to think anew about our relationship with the Arab people. That's a start, and it's done with good humor, fresh ideas and brisk pacing.

    The multilingual cast, which shares credit for creating the piece, does a fine job with the material, and the play is staged with consistent imagination. Props and people emerge from unexpected places — most memorably, a sandy desert scene constructed before our eyes with the opening of a few suitcases. Gently challenging, the show is a fun experience, a pleasure for the eyes, ears and mind.

    MAY 14, 2003
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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