Thu Nov 8 2007
Photo: Evan Sung Photography
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
People and their passions fly off the page in Jason Grote’s dynamic, intellectually agile 1001, a postmodern epic about the cultural narratives that shape our lives. In the production’s opening sequence, an Arab woman detonates a bomb in Times Square by opening an antique copy of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights; for the next half hour the audience is immersed in a frisky, tongue-in-cheek take on the story of Scheherazade (Hope) and the infantile emperor Shahriyar (Rauch). But the play soon hyperlinks out into an Escher world of interlocking time frames and plots, ranging from modern and future New York—where Rauch and Hope are reincarnated as a liberal Jewish grad student and his Palestinian girlfriend—to a deserted beach where Sinbad the Seaman literally meets Jorge Luis Borges.
Grote’s whirl of ideas owes a manifest debt to literary theory—notably the late critic Edward Said’s influential Orientalism—and in less capable hands it might seem bookish. But Ethan McSweeny’s in-the-round staging for Page 73 Productions lays a bright thread through 1001’s labyrinthine twists, with help from a crackerjack design team and cast. Hope and Rauch seem equally at home in the mannered costume comedy of Arabia and the naturalistic relationship drama of Manhattan; Mia Barron, Drew Cortese, Jonathan Hova and John Livingston Rolle orbit them well in a broad array of roles. (Barron is especially amusing and impressive.) And Grote’s themes are of immediate concern: As the West and Middle East continue their staredown, we are wise to examine whether the stories we tell become us.