What do you do when everything you have fought against shows up in your child’s life? Zayd Dohrn’s The Profane at Playwrights Horizons questions faith, generational guilt and family commitment. We first meet Raif Almedin (Ali Reza Farahnakian), a novelist who immigrated to America and has given up his Muslim heritage. He has embraced being freed and is secure living in his affluent West Village apartment. When his daughter Emina (Tala Ashe) arrives home for Thanksgiving with her boyfriend Sam (Babk Tafti), Raif is less than cordial. Sam tries to be the perfect guest and is finally greeted warmly by Emina’s mother Naja (Heather Raffo). Emina’s sister, Aisa (Francis Benhamou) has the same feelings as her father and she wildly bates Sam. When the two announce their engagement, the tension mounts to a fever point. During the night Sam goes against his faith and has a drink with Raif and confesses, he had lost his faith. Something happens in the conversation to make Sam run away, but it is unclear. Emina catches him in the act and he confesses he has been trying to tell her something, as he sobs in her lap.
In Act II the Almedin’s are now at Sam’s house who are Muslim and follow the faith. Carmen (Lanna Joffrey) is a little more strict than her animated husband Peter (Ramsey Faragallah). They have come to America for a better life, but have not given up their culture or their ways, however they are more lax than we were led to believe in Act I. What happens here is the crux of the whole play and to give it away would spoil the show. Needless to say what has kept the Almedin’s entrapped, is about to happen to their daughter. With her free will, she is giving away what her family has sought to unlock for her. Sadly they will have to accept her choice or lose her.
The cast is all perfect in their roles with Francis Benhamou standing out in two vastly different character choices.
Director Kip Fagan keeps this show moving and allows this tale to unfold.
Though Zayd Dohrn’s dialogue flows, some of the ideas do not. In Act I, why does Sam want to run? I get why in the second act, but the whole plot seems implausible. Generational guilt is causing some rather odd outcomes and that I understand, but why is Emina willing to give up her family and embrace this lifestyle knowing her family will be so against this? I get she wants a wider family base, but why is she willing to give up the one she has. She is suppose to be the smart intelligent one. Is this what universities are doing to our children? Acceptance is one thing, but deceit is another. First Sam negates to tell Emina the truth for I think was 10 months. Then Emina negates to tell her parents and lets them discover it for themselves and expects everything to be alright. Was she ever going to tell them? In the end it is the wild daughter who is left to read one of Raif’s novels, but though beautiful, I was left lost in translation.
The Profane: Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St. until April 2nd.