By Monica Bauer and Aizzah Fatima; Directed by Cheryl King and Erica Gould
Off Off Broadway, Short Plays
Ran through 9.25.16
Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street
by Ran Xia on 9.26.16
Aizzah Fatima in Dirty Paki Lingerie. Photo by Stephen de las Heras.
BOTTOM LINE: An evening of three plays against Islamophobia recounting current racial discrimination as well as personal experiences of Muslim women.
The Lady Liberty Theater Festival is a two-part experience: a first act of two short plays against Islamophobia is followed by a solo performance in act two that recounts experiences of Muslim-American women.
The first short play of the evening doubles as an introduction to the event. In Lady Liberty's Worst Day Ever, Lady L (Frances McGarry) and her agent Vinnie (J. Dolan Byrnes) engage in a conversation about the current state of society. They discuss the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president; Trump has sent out a memo to "rebrand" Lady Liberty and remove the famed poem by Emma Lazarus. The duo resolves to produce a festival in the name of Lady Liberty, which brings the program to the next short play, No Irish Need Apply. This opens with an Irish man (Byrnes) singing a nostalgic tune about Irish immigrants' experience in the U.S., recounting memories of discrimination against the Irish. Fast-forward to present day NYC, where Syrian refugee Ahmed Fahmy (Ali Andre Ali) walks into a souvenir shop looking for a job. The conversation between Irish shop owner Joan Fitzgerald (McGarry) and the Shiite former English teacher reveals the inherent misunderstandings and institutionalized racial stereotyping between different peoples. Two generations of racial discrimination juxtapose to demonstrate what has changed, and what hasn't.
The second half of the program is a tour-de-force solo piece, Dirty Paki Lingerie, written and performed by Aizzah Fatima, which tells the stories of six American-Muslim women drawn from real-life incidents and interviews. With a stretch of fabric, Fatima transforms herself into various characters. Her earnest and compassionate performance brings to life the joy and sorrow of American-Muslim experience. Those stories are uniquely Muslim, but also relatable to women in general.
(The Lady Liberty Theater Festival played at Urban Stages, 259 West 30rd Street, through September 25, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 30 minutes with an intermission. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 and Sunday 2. Tickets are $15-$30 and are available at ladylibertyfestival.com.)
In The Lady Liberty Theater Festival, Lady Liberty's Worst Day Ever and No Irish Need Apply are by Monica Bauer and Directed by Cheryl King. Dirty Paki Lingerie is by Aizzah Fatima and Directed by Erica Gould. Lighting Designer and Stage Manager is Ellen Rosenberg.
The cast is J. Dolan Byrnes, Frances McGarry, Ali Andre Ali, and Aizzah Fatima.