Entertainment » Theatre


by Brooke Pierce
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jan 18, 2019

This review for "Nassim," the lovely new theater piece playing at New York City Center's Stage II, isn't going to be very long, for the simple reason that it is a play best enjoyed without too much information. But I'll try to give you a teaser without revealing too many details about this wonderful and unusual show.

"Nassim" is named for its author, Nassim Soleimanpour, an Iranian playwright who has had his works performed around the globe in numerous languages. In this new, very personal work, he has designed a very playful exploration language and storytelling that includes sharing childhood memories while musing on what it means to communicate in your native tongue.

The nifty "gimmick" of the piece, which is a slim 75-minutes, is the fact that each performance is driven by a guest actor who has not read the play in advance or had any rehearsals. The schedule has included a wide range of theater, TV, and film actors, including the likes of Melissa Gilbert, Kathy Najimy, Jessica Hecht, Katie Finneran, and Michael Cerveris.

The show starts with a stage manager pointing the actor to a box that supposedly holds the script for the evening — and from there, "Nassim" is like a theatrical treasure hunt, full of silly surprises, unexpected interactivity, and a highly enjoyable crash course in Farsi. On the evening I attended, our performer was theater veteran Quincy Tyler Bernstine, and it was a blast watching her experience everything fresh right along with us — and laboring to meet the author's many demands.

Omar Elerian directs "Nassim" with great skill, creating a "we're all in this together" atmosphere for the actor and audience, and also facilitating a lot of little technical feats, including real-time video interaction between the actor and the author.

The overriding themes of "Nassim" are communication and connection. Though it is more like an elaborate theatrical exercise than a play, it is a touching, funny, and unique experience that leaves you with a warm glow.

"Nassim" runs through April 20 at City Center Stage II, 131 West 55th Street, NYC. For information or tickets, call 212-581-1212 or visit www.nycitycenter.org

Brooke Pierce is a freelance writer and playwright in New York City. Her plays have received staged readings at the American Theatre of Actors, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Stage One Theater. Brooke is a member of the Drama Desk and the Dramatists Guild.


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