Reviewed by Deborah Klugman | STAGE ROW |
The Complex Theatre | Through October 14
In August 2012, white supremacist named Wade Michael Page entered a Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and shot and killed six people —another of the all too frequent hate crimes that continually debase our nation. Here in Los Angeles, Sikh writer/performer Sundeep Morrison became alarmed; her parents lived in Wisconsin and might well have been at that Gurdwara on that particular day. Calling home, she learned that her family was safe. But the incident had an impact, and inspired her to write a story about Sikhs living in the U.S. — who they are and what they believe, and the dangers they face as (mostly) people of color often mistaken for Muslims or Arabs by their ignorant or uninformed neighbors.
Rag Head is an adaptation of that story; it’s a solo show consisting of a series of monologues performed by Morrison and directed by Amitra Dhaliwal. Four of the seven characters are members of the same family. Patriarch Baljeet Singh, a gentle turbaned man in his 50’s, works in the convenience mart in a gas station; in a dialogue with an Anglo customer, he imparts a little about himself and his culture: his roots in India, the significance of his turban (to let people know that he is always available to help them), and his beliefs, which include respect for everyone, regardless of their faith, and an imperative to share one’s wealth.
The second monologue is a heated discourse from Dale, a white garage mechanic, talking to a pal about his daughter’s romantic relationship with a young Sikh doctor. Dale claims not to be a bigot, but he thinks people should stick with their own kind and he’s angry and bewildered that his daughter has called him a racist.
Some of the other characters include Baljeet’s wife, Simi, who worries that her doctor son Dev won’t get the promotion he deserves because of his beard and turban; Dev himself; and an administrator in the hospital where he works who learns that, per Simi’s prediction, Dev’s appearance has been the focus of complaints and he’s about to be bypassed once again for the position he’s applied for.
Rag Head was created as an effort to educate audiences and help provide an antidote to the hateful intolerance so pervasive in this country today. If you’re an enlightened Angelino who celebrates the diversity of our community and is sensitive to angry counter currents that boost intolerance in its stead, you won’t be much surprised by the content of Morrison’s show and its disturbing conclusion. That said, despite the time lapse between scenes necessitated by costume changes, the humor-etched monologues are effectively and affectingly executed, with Liza Elaine Stegall’s sound design and choice of music creating an apt aural backdrop for this writer/performer’s pressing message.
The Complex Hollywood, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 14. Tickets here. Running time: 40 minutes, with an additional audience Q and A/Sikh awareness workshop following the performance. (Ticket proceeds benefit the Sikh Coalition).
The article is courtesy of Stage Row. See here.
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