SALT LAKE CITY — Learning about a different culture can bring new thoughts and understanding, which is how I felt after seeing To the NoWhere Stan written by Ammar Al Saffar. Produced by Baghdad Productions, this play is a kaleidoscope of a journey from home to other countries and back.
Al Saffar plays Sabir, the main character, who finds he can leave Iraq and go to Greece for $1500. He borrows the money from a friend, takes a bus and then a tiny boat, and ends up in a coma in the hospital in Spain, having had a accident on the way. While in the coma, Sabir dreams he is in purgatory and is denied heaven, because he told the border patrol he was a gay atheist. The angel who accompanies him on part of his journey tells him he gets to go to hell. Later, Sabir wakes up at home in Iraq, having not taken the journey at all and confused by all that happened while he was sick.
In English, the show was choppy, though it might have flowed better in the language of the author. I had a hard time following the story and what was going on, as well as the meaning of the story. The beauty and artistry of the show was stunning. I got lost in the beauty of the acting and how the actors would begin to randomly sing out of joy in their language. The intensity of emotion displayed by Al Saffar, as well as Jezpory Munoz Berrios who played multiple roles, was impactful. Berrios had a moment during the heaven scene that moved me deeply even though I didn’t quite follow all she was saying, because the dialogue seemed random.
The costumes were all beautiful and interesting, especially the bus driver’s (played by Steph Chatelain) head cover and the many angels’ outfits. The understanding of how difficult it is to live in a country on only $15 dollars a day was so sad. I felt for the travelers trying to get to Greece, forced to attempt to get there in a tiny boat that tipped over.
My heart hurt for those in these difficult places, but I also felt the warmth of their home, so different than mine, yet so full of love emanating from the mother in her full body cover. I wished I could learn more and that the show would keep going longer. This show was unique and touching, if a bit difficult to follow.