I got invited to see an early run of I CALL MY BROTHERS, written by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, directed by Abhi Shrestha, now playing with Interrobang Theatre Project at Rivendell Theatre (5779 N. Ridge Ave).
The play functions as memory, fantasy, dreamscape, reality, all meshed together in an intricate mesh that challenges our own preconceptions about Arab culture around the world. The argument can be made (and heck, here I am making it) that nationalist/anti-immigrant attitudes are far worse in Europe than they are here, State-side. Set in Sweden in 2010, the play finds Amor, a young Arab-Swedish man, racking his brain to work through the relationships in his life: friends, family, unrequited loves, when all his thinking and rambling is further pushed over the edge after a car bomb explosion in his city. Now, anti-Arab/Muslim attitudes have invaded Amor’s own brain, making him question his own place in the world. Through his struggle, we begin to question our own perception of how we see our fellow Arab citizens day-to-day: where does your mind go when you see someone wearing a hijab, or a keffiyeh? What images pop into your mind? How does the world see you?
Shrestha’s world is artful, painful, a sea of empathy wrapped in a theatrically engaging tapestry. We are thrown into memories and phone calls and flashbacks and never lose a sense of where we are in the story. The four-person cast is all tremendous and each find their time to command the narrative in their own way, lead by the propulsive Salar Ardebili.
I hope y’all get the chance to see I CALL MY BROTHERS. It tells a story with characters we rarely see in the American Theater. And if we do see them, it is usually through the lens of a White Narrative. These are the stories we need to hear right now, and this is a shining example of the power of theatre as Empathy. Please see it if you can.