The Skyless City

by MIRA REINBERG

Eliza Rasheed and Taous Khazem. Photo by Adeab Azadegan.

Living in Western countries generally implies having access to a vast array of media venues that provide an abundance of uncensored and updated news. Journalism is charged with the sacred task of unveiling democracy’s biggest enemy: collaboration of institutions in repressing crime, corruption, and injustice. It is not at all certain that in the matter concerning the plague of human trafficking, the news media is always persistent in giving the subject a high priority.

There is, however, an effort on the part of the art world, particularly film and theatre, to project light on the gruesome circumstances of this criminal enterprise that spans countries and continents. One such overture is currently offered by Iranian director Kiomars Moradi who, with Pouria Azarbayjani, co-wrote The Skyless City, now on stage at Dreamland Acts in a amultimedia production. Although this is its U.S. debut, it premiered in Iran in late 2009 only to be banned by the government for its provocative theme: women trafficking, specifically women from the Middle East.

While the play may have had resonance of the political situation within Iran, Moradi seems to focus on the urgency of acquainting American, perhaps Western audiences with this particular plight taking place in the Middle East, an area beset by multiple other problems that overshadow the existence of human trafficking.

The four women in the story come from Afghanistan and Iran, each fleeing from abuse in their home country. The destination is Paris, and the savior who will lead them to this safe haven is the smuggler, promising to deliver passports and open their paths to a new life.

We see two of the women on stage, Alma (Eliza Rasheed), and Nasrin (Taous Khazem). Their two friends Affi and Firouzeh (Fatemeh Naghavi and Nazgol Naderian), are seen on a video screen, as they were never able to make it out of what is portrayed as a Middle Eastern trap. But the size of the screen and the light that is emitted from the video image magnify the presence of the absent women, amplify their voices – spoken in Farsi with English voiceover, and heighten the countenance of emotions that express hopefulness, longing, and despair. On stage, kept in the significant darkness of an obscure subway station in Paris, are Alma and Nasrin, enduring the harrowing wait for the passports. It is the silenced but vivid faces of the absent women that allows the live Rasheed and Khazem to demonstrate the petrifying state of waiting, knowing that if their two comrades had lost the fight, it may be their lot as well.

The script consists of narrations that are not always coherent or linear and whose intensity is disturbing. The complex reality that prevails in Iran compels artists, writers, and creators to formulate their insights and depictions in non-transparent language and plot. Even if the subject in question is a global problem, the play was written and produced in a state that compromises the freedom to express oneself transparently. It behooves us to witness the specificity of a production that reflects a particular reality of a global situation. The Skyless City is a forceful reminder of this continuously unfolding reality.

 

The Skyless City, by Kiomars Moradi and Pouria Azarbayjani. Directed by Kiomars Moradi. Set and costume design by Narmin Nazmi. At Dreamland Arts, 677 Hamline Ave. N. St. Paul, MN 55104. Novenber 8 – 18, 2012. Tickets at Tel: 651-645-5506 orat info@dreamlandarts.com

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