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BWW Reviews: RUMINATION, An Extraordinary 50 Minutes of Bliss

Amir Khalighi's directorial debut RUMINATION is 50 minutes of bliss. Using the teachings of the 13th century poet Rumi as its center, the collaborative original work takes the audience on an inward journey - a spiral, if you will - to the center of one's self; to a place where peace exists and the source of everything we seek is waiting to embrace our weary hearts. It's heady stuff for a night at the theater and beautifully intoxicating in the way it expresses the universality of Rumi's wisdom.

To get there, Khalighi guides nine artists through fourteen of the master's writings in a theatrical meditation that includes the spoken word, music, elevated movement, and dance to create a deeply personal experience. For these precious minutes, the theater is indeed a sacred space, transformed by simple suggestions of the period - a Persian rug, a pair of brass hanging lanterns, the glow of a well-placed candle.

The intimacy and close proximity of actors to the audience works in the piece's favor, enhancing its soulfulness and conscious clarity of thought. Precisely modulated lighting directs your attention to the artist (s) featured as the rest remain actively involved in a kind of engaged listening that is almost as hypnotic in its stillness as the piece being performed. The sound design fills the shadows with the heartbeat of The Beloved, haunting music, and even silence that hangs in the air to suspend a moment. It all works in perfect harmony.

Movement includes a group ecstatic dancing piece, several whirling dervishes, and a percussive belly dancing sequence, but the majority of the movement is more contemplative. Often the group moves as one, achieving a symbiosis in their spatial relationship with each other that is very powerful.

Within the passages of text individual lines emerge: "Whatever you are seeking is seeking you," "I need more grace than I thought." "The wound is the place where the light enters you." "There's courage involved if you want to become truth." What resonates with each member of the audience will be different but the effect is the same - a subtle quickening that fills the longing within as reflections on breath, light, love, oneness and life touch your senses.

Rumi's words have a tactile quality and I was struck by the beauty and innocence in the faces of these old souls as they spoke them with such pure intention. How can you not fall in love with them?

Of all the pieces, the most moving for me was "Bemeereed Bemeereed Dar Een Eshgh Bemeereed," which translates as "Die, Die Within This Love, Die." recorded by Ahmad Shamlu. Though I could not understand the words, I could feel the deep emotion and spritual connection reflected in the rich timbre of his voice. In the end, that's really the way to experience Khalighi's letting the images and sound wash over you and make its connection with your heart.

More than you can possibly absorb at one time, this is a play to see again and again.

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Directed by Amir Khalighi, and featuring Anna Laura Singleton, Celina Lee Surniak, Deneen Melody, Katelyn Gault, Mark Hein, Michelle Talley, Peggy Flood, Tessa-Jade Richardson and Tracey Collins. Produced by Zombie Joe.

(L-R): Tessa-Jade Richardson, Deneen Melody & Celina Lee Surniak

(Standing L-R) Deneen Melody, Peggy Flood. (Bottom, L-R) Tessa Jade-Richardson,
Michelle Talley, Tracey Collins, Celina Lee Surniak, Katelyn Gault, Mark Hein, Anna
Laura Singleton. Photos by Zombie Joe

September 29 - October 27, 2013
Sundays at 7:00 pm
ZJU Theatre Group
4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA
Reservations: (818) 202-4120
Tickets: $15

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From This Author Ellen Dostal