Articles, Reviews, Volume 5

Cairo in the ‘60’s: This Time by the Rising Circle Theater Collective New York City, May 19, 2016

Cairo in the ‘60’s: This Time by the Rising Circle Theater Collective
The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, New York City
Thursday, May 19, 2016 Performance
A Theatre Review by Michael Malek Najjar
Arab Stages, Volume 5, Number 1 (Fall, 2016)
2016 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publication

This Time, by playwright Sevan K. Greene, directed by Kareem Fahmy, is a play about an idealized Egyptian past and its devastating consequences on a harshly realistic Canadian present. Inspired by stories from the book Not So Long Ago by Amal Meguid, and developed through a workshop collaboration with Kareem Fahmy, this part-memory play, part-American realist drama harkens back to the “golden age” of 1960s Egypt. The play is also inspired by the life of Kareem Fahmy’s Egyptian grandmother. Despite the time shift from 1962 Cairo to 1992 Toronto, Greene writes in his script that, “though the play deals with two timelines it should never feel as if one is the past and the other the present. Both occur now. There are no ghosts and no memories. Lights, colours, and sounds should delineate both worlds.”[i] Fahmy’s able direction largely fulfils this playwright note, but the production clearly and necessarily dealt with these two timelines seamlessly.

We meet Younger Amal in 1962 as a married mother of two, bored at a socialite party in Cairo. She meets Nick, a handsome Canadian teacher who is obsessed both by women and liquor. Nick instantly falls for her despite her protestations, and it is clear that the couple are destined for a tortured love affair. In the present, an older Amal is living with her divorced daughter Janine (who was born of Amal’s broken marriage). Janine, separated from her own husband, has decided to move out of her home and start anew, consumed by anger toward Amal for leaving her father and brother decades earlier. For her part, Amal is now an elegant and suave older woman who swears Nick hiding in the bushes outside her daughter’s home. As the play progresses we see the passion and dysfunction of Nick and Amal’s love affair and marriage, and how Amal’s decision to leave her children has permanently ruined her adult relations with both of them. The play conflates the past and present, leaving the audience wondering how the characters will find a way to move forward.

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