Thursday, December 13, 2018

“Veils” – One of the Best Plays of 2018

Alaji and Fathiya Ritter in Veils (Joe Iano)
Macha Theatre Works
(at West of Lenin)
Through December 16, 2018

You can tell that Macha’s production of Tom Coash’s play, Veils, was made with love. They took great care to cast two talented women actors who are also of appropriate ethnic background to the characters (Arab or Muslim) – Alaji and Fathiya Ritter, and hired a newly transplanted-from-California Arab director, Lia Sima Fakhouri.  

They added set designer Parmida Ziaei, who created a dorm room that seamlessly transformed into a hotel room, fun college-age appropriate costuming by Sadiqua Iman, and solid sound design by Johanna Melamed and lighting by Zanna King. Projections are important in this production and were perfected by Suzi Tucker – one of the talented projection-creators in town, in case you weren’t aware.

Veils is a two-hander. It’s two young college-aged women who are both going to school in Cairo, Egypt. One is an American Muslim – Intisar (Ritter) – who is excited to come and study Islam and Islamic culture and immerse herself in what she hopes will be a welcoming environment. Samar (Alaji) is an Egyptian Muslim who speaks fluent English and wanted to have an American roommate to further her goal of becoming a news reporter on CNN.

Intisar likes to wear a hijab or headscarf to denote modesty and to be a proud, practicing Muslima. Samar has been feeling the burden of the demand by a more conservative public that she “must” wear a hijab and she feels like she should not have to if she doesn’t choose to. Still Samar wants to be thought of as a “proper” Muslima anyway, and is defiant about the fact that the hijab is supposed to show her obedience to the religious practice.

Coash was a professor in Egypt for a time, teaching many young people just like the women he writes about in his play. He apparently wrote this play based on young women he knew with stories that were real, though this is theatrical and not a “documentary” play.

He places the story in 2010, which is a time of political turmoil in many countries in northern Africa and the Middle East. When we see the date, we might recognize that it was just before the “Arab Spring” uprisings in Egypt that toppled Hosni Mubarak from power. It was a time when the American University in Cairo had decided to ban the wearing of veils on campus, and that sparked protest on both sides of that issue.

So, these two young women explore and represent the various sides of that complex issue. This play is very well written and avoids difficult pitfalls of didacticism while writing about “ideas” like what a veil represents. The characters are distinct and fully fleshed out and the two young actors manage their characters beautifully. Anyone who sees the play and knows any college age women can recognize and identify with them.

While a lot of this play is funny and upbeat, please note that there are references to very traumatic events later on. These days, people seem to want to be warned before they see “entertainment” that might challenge them or contain violent acts. Yes, this play will make you “feel things.” Most of the audience will appreciate that journey, and for some it may be too much.

This production is competing with lots of fun Christmas entertainment. It’s a “small” play, about an important but heady topic and it might be overlooked. Please don’t overlook it. It’s one of the best plays of 2018!

For more information, go to or or call 206-352-1777.

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