Review: AMERICAN FAST Lights the Beam at Capital Stage

The production runs through February 25th.

By: Feb. 03, 2024
Review: AMERICAN FAST Lights the Beam at Capital Stage

Capital Stage is starting the new year off with a winner. American Fast, by Kareem Fahmy, is making its Sacramento premiere and running through February. Its themes of competition, self-reflection, and navigating relationships are particularly relevant, as many immigrants struggle to honor familial traditions while finding their own way in contemporary society.

Khady Salama (Victoria Nassif) is one such individual. She has trained her entire life for a career in basketball, and now is her moment to shine. She has led her team to the NCAA Finals and is poised to be the one to watch during the tournament. However, her coach (Atim Udoffia) laments that women’s sports are overlooked. To ensure that the whole world is watching her team, the coach, with the help of Khady’s mother, Suzan (Rula Gardenier), thrusts Khady into the spotlight as an unwilling poster child of Islam.

The tournament falls during Ramadan, a month of worship in Islam that is marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Suzan and Coach announce on national television that Khady, being a devout Muslim, will be fasting in observance of the holiday. No food or water, even during game days. The attention it generates appeals to Khady’s narcissistic side, but the pressure of being a perfect role model does not. The stress bleeds into her relationship with her boyfriend, Gabe (Vernon Lewis), and she has to make some tough decisions about what is most important to her. To make matters worse, her mother has come to ensure that Khady adheres to her fasting. They must work through some old wounds before they can move toward a relationship based on mutual respect. Can Khady flesh out who she really is from what everyone else expects of her?

Nassif and Gardenier are wholly believable as they perform their intricate pas de deux in an evolving and complicated mother/daughter relationship. Nassif brings Khady to life with a fire to succeed at all costs and a decidedly determined persona. Gardenier also adopts that determination, but hers has a singular focus tempered with the gentle love that only a mother can express. Tall and arresting, Udoffia is perfectly cast as a basketball coach. Her appearance and attitude are a winning, no-nonsense combination. Lewis expertly expresses a patient and accommodating boyfriend, until he is pushed to his limit. The cast is brilliantly directed by Benjamin T. Ismail, whose projects seem to take on a life of their own with illuminating introspection.

American Fast is a champion, even if you don’t like basketball. Great acting, a smart script, and its lightning-fast pace make it a must-see. You might even be inspired to catch some March Madness.

American Fast plays at Capital Stage through February 25th. More information and tickets may be found online at Capstage.org, by telephone at (916) 995-5464, or in person at the Box Office at 2215 J Street in Sacramento.

Photo credit: Charr Crail




Videos