On April 21st, 2015, the American University of Sharjahs’ College of Arts and Sciences Performing Arts Program presented Mary Zimmerman’s finest theatrical adaptation play “The Arabian Nights” in the Arts Rotunda. This play was edited and directed by Professor Anthony Tassa, who dedicated two months of rehearsals with the cast to make this performance as outstanding as it turned out to be. With the help of Professor Ted O. Rhyner, the lighting and Scenic Design coordinator and Technical Director, made the stage come to life.
Zimmerman’s play first showcased in 2008 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, having the intensity in each of the character roles within the characters themselves put a lot of pressure and expectation upon watching the final production. Furthermore, this fascinating production consisted of two acts; within these acts, a lot of scenes with different themes took place on stage. The multiple scenes in the first act mainly consisted of stories that were voiced through Shahrezade and deep into each of the stories within the other characters in order to buy more time and survive Shahryars blade.
Act two talked about the slow buildup and progression of Shahryar and Shahrezade’s relationship through the tales Shahrezade told and Shahryars reaction to them. The show concludes with Shahryar confessing his love to Shahrezade. Both Acts in the play entailed a lot of characters, which were played by the same actors within different characters. Other than being the main character that the play revolved around, Shahrezade played a huge role as she was the narrator and guide to the audience to follow throughout this play.
During the play, I really came to enjoy the performance of every actor but of them all, I mostly enjoyed Noor Safieh’s performance which played multiple characters like Perfect love, Tortoise and little girl. Her deliverance of each roles playfulness and outbursts were on point. Since I have studied this play thoroughly in my Theatre 242 class this semester, I could relate all that I have done on the script analysis to a live performance which to me was perfected by the deliverance in some performances and crew.
Starting with her facial expressions and up to the way she used her hand gestures when performing, all of the detailed movements with her costume and props also contributed to the depth of her character. Along with her performance, her hair, costume and the set added to the success of the character at that era. Everything really blended in and could be seen plainly through some of the characters. Moreover, her final role as little girl in Act two was superb, the pitch change in her voice, with each plea and line she stated were incredible.
To be able to switch in character and personality from sultry and flirtatious self to an innocent little girl was outstandingly captivating. In addition to Noor Safieh’s performance, I would also like to discuss the performance of Julian Hedlund-Drumm who played Shahryar and the Mock Khalifa’s character. Starting with the moment he entered the stage in Act one, until the very last scene in Act two, Julian was right man for this role. No one could have done it better, with his arrogance and movements on stage.
Likewise, while running his lines during the course of his performance, he had demanding presence, a strong voice and remarkable spot on facial expressions. An audience like myself would not buy confidence and superiority from a character if the actor himself did not perfect it. And that is indeed what happened with his performance, his never ending need to slit his one night stands to his complete transformation at the end of act two was wonderful. I was astonished as to how much the Theatre courses in AUS could do to one’s ability to perform in such a delicate, yet manly way.
In addition to Julian Hedlund-Drumm, Noor Safieh and the rest of the cast, the dancing scenes along with the Choir throughout the play gave the audience a sense of connection and converse with the marvelous performance. Moving on, the Technical crew did an outstanding job as well, having the stage set and built so that each scene of the play and acts fit together, really impressed me, because without them the whole play wouldn’t have had the same outcome as it did.
In addition to that, the way the lights were set out and played with to satisfy the right effects for a specific scene captured the essence of both the characters and their surroundings. Special thanks and gratitude should be given the Technical Crew, Artistic team as well as the Costume and Wardrobe team for handling such a hard task in a professional manner, as it is not that easy to create a stage and whole scenery from scratch. In conclusion, being a member of the audience, while keeping in mind the notes I was taking throughout the performance, other members of the audience perception also helped me while I evaluated the play as a whole.
Everyone seemed amused and interested at what came next, no yawning, no distractions and no talking took place as the performers were on stage. From what I have learnt about the story line and script, I thought to myself, something would go wrong during the show. But on the contrary, it was really entertaining and beautiful to watch. I would recommend everyone to take some time to watch this play, because it was played beautifully.