Roxanna Hope Radja and the family. Photo: Hunter Canning
Articles, Reviews, Volume 7

The Mysteries Behind a Silenced Voice: Review of Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest

The Mysteries Behind a Silenced Voice: 
Review of Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest
By Juan R. Recondo
Arab Stages, Volume 7 (Fall, 2017)
©2017 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Semitic Root’s production of Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest, directed by May Adrales and which ran from March 11 to April 1 at the Fourth Street Theatre, explores the life of the unnamed Arab man murdered by Meursault, the French Algerian protagonist of Albert Camus’s The Stranger. The action of both the novel and the play is set in Algeria during the early 1940s when the North African nation was still a French colony. Camus’s novel narrates the final days of Meursault’s life through a first-person point of view. The readers witness how the character experiences his mother’s death, his attitudes towards work, his love life, his relationships with his neighbors, and his court case through Meursault’s own voice. By solely focusing on the voice of a Pied-Noir (a European who immigrated to Algeria while it was still part of France) who directly interacts with other European descendants, Camus’s novel compresses the Algerian characters to the silence of the colonized masses. Shamieh’s play expands onto the lives of the young Arab man and his loved ones to not only emphasize the injustices of a colonial regime, but also shed light on how these relations of power impact a family that has suffered from colonial oppression ever since the French arrived in Algeria in the nineteenth century.

Alok Tewari as Abu. Photo: Hunter Canning

Shamieh structured The Strangest as a murder mystery where one of three brothers will be shot at the end. Their mother, Umm (Jacqueline Antaramian), tells the story that will end in the murder of one of her sons: Nemo (Andrew Guilarte), an aggressive and volatile young man who spends most of his time getting into trouble and accompanied by prostitutes; Nouno (Louis Sallan), the shoemaker who is somewhat slow and extremely submissive; and Nader (Juri Henly-Cohn), the sensitive and passionate artist. The three brothers are attracted to their cousin, Layali (Roxanna Hope Radja), who was raised by Umm and her husband, Abu (Alok Tewari), the young woman’s uncle. The beautiful Layali is willing to do anything to acquire financial stability. For this reason, she rejects her own feelings towards her cousin Nader, who is passionately in love with her, and decides to do anything she can to acquire French citizenship.

| | | Next → |
Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message
Skip to toolbar