OLD MEN ARE FULL OF S**T Set for MITF
John Chatterton's venerable Midtown International Theatre Festival once again earned it name with a staged reading of a new play by emerging playwright Mohammed Saad Ali. The brusquely titled "OLD MEN ARE FULL OF S**T" tells the story of Ismail, a Pakistani whose been in America for more than 20 years (played with great humor and biting wit by Jay Paranada) but, because of an error in paperwork might be deported as an illegal immigrant to Pakistan, a place he left as a baby.
The play - taking place during the night shift of the seedy convenience store where Ismail finds he must work due to his lack of proper identification - introduces us to "the new oppressed and the new criminal" director Jay Michaels describes in his introduction. Ismail receives sage wisdom from UncleNassir, a former Afghani soldier now stock clerk (supplied by Kristoffer Infante, who juggles misery and fury with great agility), Miguel, the stock boy living for the day when he can see his two young children again (Perri Yaniv brought a sense of honor to this downtrodden man), and Amjad the bitter business owner (Jay Michaels' Scrooge-like portrayal set the stage for Ismail's odyssey). Every neighborhood has organized crime and this one has it in the form of two Russian "gangstas," the dim Vlad (Yaniv doubling and handing in comic relief) and volatile Anton (Joseph Conway supplying actual menace to the surroundings). But what gives this well-written one-act its true parable is the relationship between Ismail and Issac, an Orthodox Jew willing to break his religious bonds in order to help his friend stay in this country (Andrew Rothkin, capturing this character in look and nuance). Hope of a better life also comes in the form of Rose, a kindly customer whose attraction to Ismail seems mutual (Sara Minisquiero imbues Rose with believable innocence).
A spirited post-show Q & A began with a careful discussion of how this play is a microcosm to current world affairs and ended with an audience member remarking "when I came in there were several cultures - now I see only one." Ali, who implied that there are autobiographical elements to this play, smiled at the comment. He is planning to revise the piece and turn it into a full length. John Chatterton and his general manager, Louis S. Salamone were in attendance. Maybe next year's MITF will present the next version.
Photo Credit: WrightGroupNY