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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
NASSIM
at New York City Center Stage II

FOREIGN TONGUES
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Kate Arrington and Nassim Soleimanpour/ Ph: Joan Marcus

In these dark days – when many of us are subject to seasonal affective disorder and feeling “sad” in every sense – any experience that fosters a calm mood of community serves as a welcome diversion. Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour’s latest is just such an event, inviting enough to charm even the participation-wary.
 
Compared to his 2016 exercise, the rather morbid White Rabbit Red Rabbit – which likewise involved a series of performers, one per show, essaying a cold reading – the autobiographical Nassim is downright cuddly. The script – running to 400-plus pages, a projected page warns mock-ominously – is pretty much actor-proof. Provided that the performer-du-jour is at all amenable, he/she is likely to fall under Nassim’s spell as he reaches back deep into his childhood to explore the origins of language and literacy. (Hint: Mothers play a role.)
 
Will Nassim himself emerge, like the Great Oz, from behind the curtain? As a pair of well-manicured, somewhat hirsute hands flip the many, many pages of the script, he – or whoever (we don’t even hear a voice) – appears alternately a bit smart-alecky and a bit shy, while the text teases out the story of a little boy in Tehran learning to read.
 
The plot, or premise if you prefer, unfolds ineluctably. It’s as tightly constructed as an elaborate marble chute. You may come away having absorbed a bit of Farsi. You’ll definitely emerge impressed anew at the courage travelers and émigrés must summon to tackle an unfamiliar culture. Being tossed into a foreign tongue tends to makes babies of us all – and also, with any luck and a dash of artistry, valued friends.

 


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