Theater review by Raven Snook
Sylvia Khoury’s Power Strip examines the impact of violence and oppression through one woman’s journey to empowerment. At a Greek refugee camp in 2016, a young Syrian former university student named Yasmin (a gut-wrenching Dina Shihabi, who never leaves the stage) huddles in a valley of dirt near an electrical plug for her heater and cell phone. Her countryman Khaled (a charming Darius Homayoun) tries to steal her possessions, but winds up stealing her heart. As their relationship evolves, Yasmin comes to understand how men—including her onetime fiancé (Ali Lopez-Sohaili, seen in flashbacks), her absent father and brother, and countless soldiers and politicians—are responsible for the mess that her life and the world have become.
An emerging playwright who’s also in her fourth year of medical school, Khoury has a gift for lines that ring so achingly true, they take your breath away; she also has a knack for symbolism and for mining the multiple meanings of words. Staged with intensity by Tyne Rafaeli for LCT3, Power Strip unfolds in a series of two-person exchanges on Arnulfo Maldonado’s bleak Beckettian set. Like its heroine, the play seems emotionally distant at first. But it’s exciting to watch Yasmin slowly slough off the burdens of shame and expectations and learn to put herself first—at any cost.
Given the current situation in Syria, Power Strip seems especially timely. But at heart, it’s not about what’s happening there and now. Like the Greek myths that Yasmin and Khaled discuss, this is a story that stretches back throughout history, and casts its shadows into the future.
Claire Tow Theater (Off Broadway). By Sylvia Khoury. Directed by Tyne Rafaeli. With Dina Shihabi. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.