Chicago Theatre Review
Love, Loss and Art
Inana – Timeline Theatre
Because, as the United States was about to invade Iraq in 2003, our government neglected to develop a plan for protecting thousands of treasured antiquities, Yasin Shalid, the museum’s curator, embarks upon his own mission to save these priceless pieces of Persian art from thievery and destruction. Surreptitiously Shalid travels to London with his new bride, transporting several suitcases filled with secrets. In a modest hotel room, Shalid attempts to better know and understand Shali, his nervously modest spouse, while juggling the danger and importance of his clandestine undertaking.
In this 90-minute play, Inana is both a sculpture of the revered earth mother goddess, the mythical soul of this ancient civilization, and a metaphor for this war-ravaged region of the world. As the play unfolds, the audience learns more and more about Shalid, Shali and the importance of this and countless other artifacts of Persian history. Playwright Michele Lowe has penned a play that’s at once a love story between a man a woman and a devotion between Mankind and Homeland.
Kimberly Senior has directed this piece with a reserved passion, yet with an immediacy and a sense of impending danger that takes the action in and out of the hotel room. She nicely uses the downstage area for various flashbacks, helping the audience fully understand the events that transpired which have led to now. Through these scenes, which alternate between the present and past, we meet a very funny hotel waiter (terrific Michael B. Woods, in his TimeLine debut, who also plays Shalid’s British colleague, Dominic Croft), a devoted curator aide (played by the always engaging Behzad Dabu), a big-hearted art forger and Shali’s father, Emad Al-Bayit (played by the versatile, prolific actor, Anish Jethmalani), a seller of priceless, rare books (nicely characterized by Frank Sawa) and Hama, Shalid’s first wife, (a beautifully underplayed Arya Daire).
Demetrios Troy, one of Chicago’s finest, hard-working actors, returns to the TimeLine stage as Yasin Shalid. His portrayal is emotional and eloquent, taking the audience with him on his journey to save his own life, that of his young wife and of the many antiquities he must protect from looters. Seemingly stoic in his endeavors, Shalid seethes beneath with devotion to his land and people. Atra Asdou plays an enigmatic, sometimes humorous Shali Shalid. With each scene this talented artist gradually unveils her character who, by the end of this play, the audience sees as a very different woman than the character they initially met. This beautiful actress, making her TimeLine debut, will hopefully be seen again in upcoming productions. Except for the flashbacks, Troy and Asdou share the entire emotional ride of this play.
Once again TimeLine Theatre has made a forgotten, little understood event from the recent past feel relevant and immediate. This play is a fascinating puzzle box of events and involvements, peopled with quirky, likable characters who, thanks to Kimberly Senior’s astute direction, bring humanity to the anonymity of history. Flavoring this obscure event from the past with love, loss, real individuals and precious, priceless works of art, TimeLine has brought history to life once more.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented May 6-July 26 by TimeLine Theatre Company, 615 W. Wellington Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available at the TimeLine Box Office by calling 773-281-8463 or by going to www.timelinetheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.