Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Urge for Going" ☼ ☼ BANG

Mona Mansour's "Urge for Going" is written from the viewpoint of a Palestinian family stuck in a refugee camp in Lebanon, where they have lived for over sixty years. Sixty years is a long time. Why have they not left? Author Mansour, whose father is Lebanese, gives us some answers. Adham, the intellectual (Terry Lamb), has remained in the hope that some day he and his family will receive the right to return. His brother, white-bearded Ghassan (Munaf Alsafi) sees this dream as most likely an impossible one, while young Jamila (Camila Betancourt Ascencio) just hopes to get away and see the world.

There are tensions within this intergenerational household and they are exacerbated by the poverty in which they live. Jamila's brother Jul (Wiley Naman Strasser) has been left emotionally fragile, the result of a confrontation with a Lebanese policeman. Jamila and Jul's mother Abir (Tara Blau) finds herself as the referee, trying to find a middle ground between her husband's intellectual intransigence and her daughter's dream of a better life. Julian Lopez-Morillas plays Hamzi, Abir's brother, who has a more measured point of view.

Meanwhile, life goes on. The family plays cards, goes to work, watches "Baywatch" and discusses politics.

Perhaps pacing could be quicker. Director Evren Odcikin has done his best but it is a very small stage with a lot of furniture on it. This is no doubt intentional, to illustrate the cramped conditions of a refugee camp, but it does make for a lot of sitting around and not a lot of motion.

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Urge for Going" Two Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE which brings it close to the Julie Andrews Line (see sidebar for ratings explanation). Opening Night performances were a little shaky but this will improve as the run continues. Middle East politics are impossibly complex and Americans tend to hear only two sides of a multi-faceted story. "Urge for Going" has its own story to tell and it is a fascinating one.

"Urge for Going"
Z Space Below
470 Florida Street, San Francisco
Through December 8
($45 for two-show pass, including "444 Days" by Torange Yeghiazarian) 

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