Tuesday, November 27, 2018

We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War" ☼ ☼ ☼

It was lovely to see the house filled for the opening of Mona Mansour's "We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War," directed by Evren Odcikin. A minimalist production with four characters, a stage, a blackboard and a backdrop onto which electronic images are projected, the show attempts to involve the audience in a study about war. Why do we do it? Does war accomplish anything in the long run?

We loved the acting, especially the two leads Sarah Nina Hayon as She and Joshua Chessin-Yudin as He. She is He's anti-war aunt. He, her nephew, has enlisted in the army. Most of the show consists of She and He pretending to swim (done brilliantly, using nothing but chairs on wheels plus the sound of water in the background) while they carve out their positions: She doesn't get why He would ever want to kill Arabs (she is Lebanese, he is one-quarter Arab) while He is an American kid who just wants to "get bad guys."

Also present, from time to time, are Adam El-Sharkawi as The Arab and Tre-Vonne Bell as The American. The most telling moment of the night comes after She admits to He that she is afraid for him, that she wishes her nephew didn't have to go fight. From his perch, The American, who is African-American, says, "But it's OK for me to go, right?" In this moment we understand that none of us want to lose our own, but at the same time we understand somebody has to stand up for us against the bad guys. We just don't want it to be us.

RATINGS ☼  ☼ ☼ 

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division, admittedly headed by a one-time Draft Dodger, gives "We Swim..." THREE STARS. A World Premiere, there are important questions considered here, but we feel somewhat lectured to. We would prefer a little more theater.

Staging is what saves us from feeling like we have been sent to the principal's office. We love the evocative way the two swimmers choreograph their movements, including, at one point, the shared fear of drowning that neither wants to admit. We are with them every second they are in the water. This is a masterful touch.

"We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War"
Potrero Stage
1695 18th Street, San Francisco
Through Dec. 16

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