Food and Fadwa

1/4
Photograph: Joan Marcus

New York Theatre Workshop. By Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader. Dir. Shana Gold. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 10mins. One intermission.

2/4
Photograph: Joan Marcus

New York Theatre Workshop. By Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader. Dir. Shana Gold. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 10mins. One intermission.

3/4
Photograph: Joan Marcus

New York Theatre Workshop. By Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader. Dir. Shana Gold. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 10mins. One intermission.

4/4
Photograph: Joan Marcus

New York Theatre Workshop. By Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader. Dir. Shana Gold. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 10mins. One intermission.

New York Theatre Workshop, East Village Sunday June 24 2012 14:00

Fadwa makes cold-comfort food. The determinedly plain heroine of Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader’s choppy new play—played by Issaq herself—tends to her increasingly demented father (Laith Nakli) in Bethlehem and pines for her handsome ex-boyfriend Youssif (Haaz Sleiman), who has gone to work in America. To escape the doldrums, and the stress of the Israeli military presence, she also imagines herself as the host of a cooking show in which she prepares traditional Middle Eastern food, such as the feast she is readying for the marriage of her pretty younger sister (Maha Chehlaoui) to Youssif’s wisecracking brother (Arian Moayed). But Youssif returns for the wedding with a new lover: Fadwa’s brash, insensitive American cousin, Hayat (Heather Raffo), a chef whose fusion cuisine has been featured in Oprah magazine under the heading “Ethnic Authentics We Love and Admire.”

Until it takes a turn for the maudlin in Act II, Food and Fadwa chugs along in a pleasant, bluntly conventional Hollywood-comedy mode that is jarred only by heavy-handed references to soldiers (faceless, motiveless meanies)—like My Big Fat Greek Wedding or My Best Friend’s Wedding, but under siege. It’s refreshing, in a way, to see a Palestinian family represented with the same clichés that determine American family comedy, and Raffo is a kick as the ostensibly villainous Hayat (whose comic drive and energy actually make Fadwa seem rather wan and passive-aggressive). But director Shana Gold telegraphs every emotion, with all the old-fashionedness that verb implies, and as the play starts to occupy increasingly well-worn territory, it becomes more evidently unsuited to New York Theatre Workshop (which has been helping develop it since 2007)—except, perhaps, as an olive branch after the company canceled the 2006 anti-Israel drama My Name Is Rachel Corrie. Encouraging emerging theater voices is an admirable goal, but in this case ethnicity trumps authenticity.—Adam Feldman

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

Venue name: New York Theatre Workshop
Contact:
Address: 79 E 4th St
New York
10003
Cross street: between Bowery and Second Ave
Transport: Subway: F to Second Ave; 6 to Astor Pl
Price: $65
Event phone: 212-279-4200