by John Walch
Directed by Kate Alexander
Florida Studio Theatre’s Gompertz Theatre
Cocoanut & Palm Aves., Sarasota, 941-366-9000
March 29 through May 19, 2013

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

Loosely based on The Book of Ruth, John Walch’s play is having its second production since the first full one at Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 2012 and after numerous serious readings. I attended the first about four years ago at ASF’s prestigious Southern Writers Workshop and disliked it then. I feel it’s even worse now—one of those goodie-goodie looks at prejudice, in this case dragging in immigrants and a Muslim, even a momentary reference to lesbians, in which all the problems raised simply dissipate at the end. Could it be that the reason for producing this play is to have something to hold community forums about? Well, one wonders what at the FST Forums will be made of the Muslim lead being let out of her contract three days into the not a good fit.  (I thought she did just fine with a soupy role.) The story begins with her, Anisah (Farah Bala, being replaced by Sarah Stockton), Afghan translator for African American lieutenant Naomi, being (mysteriously) smuggled home to Mississippi with her.

Both women lost their husbands in the war, Naomi’s on the front and Anisah’s by insurgents for translating for Americans, a fate that Anisah might have had in store. Although Naomi is welcomed to her husband’s home by his family as one of them, that’s not true of Anisah. Not because Bo Sr. had to work in a sub shop when he lost his agricultural job to Mexicans. Nor because Bo Jr., who’s bearing guilt accusing himself of his brother’s death, has competition for his landscaping. But an incident at McDonald’s upset  the woman of the house, Gail,who lost her own brother in Afghan in addition to seeing immigrants’ economic effects on husband and son. This  sets her on an anti-illegal-immigrants crusade. She even runs for mayor on that uphold-the-law platform, shunning Anisah unless she can produce legal papers.


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