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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mona Mansour's "The Hour of Feeling" Powerfully Captures Conflicts of Identity and Displacement in a Crucial Time in History


David Barlow, Hadi Tabbal, and William Connell in The Hour of Feeling.
Part of the 36th Humana Festival of New American Plays
 at Actors Theatre. Photo by Alan Simons.









The Hour of Feeling


Written by Mona Mansour
Directed by Mark Wing-Davey

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2012 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

The Hour of Feeling, written by Mona Mansour, is an accessible, tender and at times comic tragedy of a period of time where conflict was global and a set of people were left without a home land. Not only is this a multi-media production, but the play is multi-cultural and multi-sensory.

Upon entering the Pamela Brown Auditorium, I was greeted by the strong smell of spices and fragrances and, throughout the play, images and sounds were projected on mobile flats scattered around the stage. The projections represent politics, the Israel-Palestinian countryside and symbols relevant to 1967, the year in which the play is set. The most important of these, appearing at the start of the show, is a William Wordsworth quote appearing alternately in English and Arabic. This strong image sets the tone for the play about a young Palestinian scholar and his journey for acceptance in a time of turbulence.

Hadi Tabbal plays the young scholar, Adham. Rebellious and romantic, Adham is an Easterner searching for a place in the Western world. With a profound knowledge of William Wordsworth and gifted intelligence, Adham earns the respect of his British colleagues. Tabbal’s Adham is an "everyman" in the truest definition of the word. In his journey through the political strife in his homeland, in addition to proving himself to his contemporaries in England, Tabbal transforms his Adham from a dreamer with big aspirations to a man without a country.

Rasha Zamamiri plays Abir, Adham’s wife. Although their society is male dominant and oppressive of women by contemporary Western standards, Adham and Abir’s marriage is an equal partnership. Zamamiri’s portrayal is characterized by a fascinating duality of innocence and passion. She provides a level playing field for Tabbal, from their considerably rushed courtship at the start of the play until the bittersweet final moments of the play.

Another strong performance was given by Judith Delgado, who plays Adham’s mother, Beder. A former refugee, Beder is a bitter and resentful survivor who haunts Adham’s thoughts throughout his journey. William Connell as Theo, one of Adham’s colleagues, provides humor, support and familiarity with his knowledge of the Arab language, thus creating a bond that helps cushion the culture shock the young couple faces in England.

There were interesting choices in the use of languages in the play. While Adham and Abir speak to each other, they speak in an American dialect, yet when they refer to something in Western culture, the accent is more prominent. When the young couple speaks to, or in front of, any of the British characters, it is either in Arabic or, again, with a pronounced accent. This use of accents was a most extraordinary technique for shifting perspective in the simplest way. Likewise, the constant shift in language among the multi-media portion helped establish historical context and underscored the conflict faced by the displaced characters.  

The Hour of Feeling
March 6-April 1


Part of the 36th Humana Festival of New American Plaiys


Actors Theatre of Louisville
Pamela Brown Auditorium
Third & Main Streets
Louisville, KY 40202
502-584-1205
ActorsTheatre.org

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