BWW Review: STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR at Synchronicity Theatre
President Trump's hard-line stance on immigration during the 2016 presidential election fueled the already-heated partisan debate born out of the response to legislation like the Patriot Act, legislation that has sparked serious questions regarding how to mitigate significant security risks without infringing on the personal freedoms of American citizens and without fostering a climate of xenophobia towards Muslims. The world premiere of Andrea Lepcio's Strait of Gibraltar at Synchronicity Theatre, with its provocative storytelling and effective staging, adds to the ongoing conversation in a meaningful way.
The play tells the story of Miriam, a personal banker, and Sameer, an undocumented Moroccan immigrant who clerks at a local deli. The two meet at a party of a mutual friend and leave together. He makes her coffee. She knits him a scarf. And the romance locomotive leaves the station at breakneck speed. But the train screeches to a stop when, after several months of fairly intense intimacy, Sameer asks Miriam to deposit a large sum of cash into a bank account in her name. Sameer maintains that the cash has mostly come from his family's honey-making business in Morocco, but Miriam doubts Sameer's story. Miriam's decision regarding Sameer's request sets in motion a string of events that leaves the viewers on the edge of their seats as the play barrels towards its shocking conclusion.
Lepico's play has all of the components of a good drama: sharply drawn characters, a well-paced and engaging plot, and thematic resonance. And all of these elements of good drama are enhanced by Rachel May's adept direction of the piece. For one thing, May has assembled a cast of good actors. Particularly worthy of note are Benjamin Dewitt Sims (Sameer) and Maggie Birgel (Miriam). The two actors bring both sensitivity and likability to their performances. The excellent execution forces us to struggle authentically with the big question of the play: how do we develop trust for our fellow human beings in a world that fosters suspicion?
The technical direction of the play is also worthy of note. A simple set design that features movable white walls that shift throughout the production to suggest various interior and exterior locations is effective in creating a clear sense of place. Fine. But the walls double as screens for a series of beautifully executed projections that not only effectively convey the growing intimacy between Sameer and Miriam but also the passage of time. The projections, coupled with the evocative lighting design, speak to a level of artistry that places Synchronicity Theatre squarely on the map of solid professional theatres in Atlanta.
I like to leave a play feeling like I'll be thinking about it for a while to come. It makes me feel like I've gotten my money's worth. Synchronicity Theatre's Strait of Gibraltar is worth the money. It has something to say. It says it well. And, most importantly, it asks us to hold up our end of the conversation.
Strait of Gibraltar plays at Synchronicity Theatre through April 23.
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