Review: GREY ROCK soars at Guthrie Theater

Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS at Guthrie Theater

The goal of the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater is to present groundbreaking theater that asks thought-provoking questions, inspires dialogue, and expands the diversity of voices on its stages: Grey Rock does exactly all of these things. Grey Rock, at its core, tells the story of an ordinary Palestinian man who's fascinated with America's moon landing. By the end of the play, it's so much more than that. Grey Rock forces its audience to face the big questions and leaves them enamored with the hope of its characters.

The play begins and ends with a focus on the relationship between a father, Yusuf (Khalifa Natour), and daughter, Lila (Fidaa Zidan). These two have lost the other member of their family, a mother and a wife. The two are coping with this loss in dramatically different ways. Lila throws herself into a relationship with rigid Jawad (Alaa Shehada). Yusuf hides in his garage and throws all of his attention into the construction of a rocket. Eventually, with the help of two friends, Fadel (Ivan Kevork Azazian) and Sheik (Motaz Malhees), Yusuf attempts to reach his goal of sending a rocket to the moon.

Grey Rock examines the heaviness of life in all of its facets. Religion, its history, and its obligations can weigh a person (or a sovereign state) down. Death is heavy. Love is heavy. Life is heavy. Yusuf, Lila, and the others are faced with these forms of heaviness. Amir Nizar Zuabi, the writer and director of the show, elegantly presents these observations through beautifully-written dialogue. The play is blocked masterfully in a way that allows the audience to focus on the importance of its themes.

Yusuf has a unique relationship with each of his younger counterparts. Natour and Zidan beautifully represent the relationship between a father and a daughter and all of its complexities. Zidan portrays Lila with enviable strength and grace. As a young woman around the same age, I found myself inspired by her throughout the entirety of the play. Fadel and Sheik have father/son-type relationships with Yusef. Azazian portrays Fadel in such an endearing way that has the audience constantly cheering him on. Malhees has impeccable comedic timing as Sheik.

Tal Yarden's scenic/projection design is absolutely stunning. The design, seemingly simple yet intricately beautiful, added immense meaning to the show. The Dowling is a simple space, but it felt quite the contrary because of the world Yarden created.

Grey Rock is an important story for our time. The world needs more stories like it. The world needs more diverse voices telling stories. It's stories like Grey Rock that can change the world, just like one Palestinian man and his dream to land a rocket on the moon. It changed my world a little bit and opened up my eyes to stories different than my own.

Grey Rock started its American journey in New York City. It was only at the Guthrie Theater for a few days, but it's off to continue changing the world at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. If it ever happens to grace Minneapolis's presence again, run, don't walk, to see it. It might just change your world too.

Photo Credit: Carlos Cardona.


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