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Jihad Jones a smart, tight tasty one-act
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Jihad Jones a smart, tight tasty one-act

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Jihad Jones and
the Kalashnikov Babes
Theater Schmeater
Through February 13


Yussef El Guindi is a local playwright with a lot of national recognition. His play Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes, now at Theater Schmeater, is a tight, tasty production. In a short one-act, El Guindi takes on race, stereotyping, the "entertainment" business, and cultural distortions, and breaks them all wide open.

Ashraf (Zaki Abdelhamid), an Arab-American actor, gets the offer of a lifetime from the world's most sought-after film director. But it's a terrible script that stereotypes Arabs by making them horrible villains, and this could be the defining role of his acting life. Ashraf's agent, Barry (Daniel Christensen), is desperate for his client to take the role (partly due to the enormous amounts of money that would come to the agency), so he locks Ashraf in his office to read the script.

Famous director Julius (James Weidman) and actress Cassandra (Miriah Caine Ware) arrive for a script meeting, and it's apparent that the script is every bit as bad as Ashraf thinks. But when he voices his opinion, interesting perspectives are given from others, leaving the issues murkier than you would guess.

Each of the five ensemble members does good work (there is a small, funny, secretary role by Michelle Flowers). It's a very pertinent topic, given the Christmas Day underwear incident and the heightened scrutiny of darker-skinned travelers. Director Steve Cooper makes good use of space, though there's still room for a tightening of the pace. The slapstick action between Christensen and Abdelhamid is choreographed well.

A detailed and exacting set designed by Michael Mowery creates an upscale agent's office accented with modern brick walls and leather furniture. Audiences enter through an executive anteroom, while a looping disaster movie (by Regan MacStravic) adds to the atmosphere.

There are a lot of funny jibes at the entertainment business. Insiders will laugh at descriptions of theatrical acting versus film fame. At one point, Ashraf pulls out a fake gun to make the point that stereotypes make people think he's more dangerous than he is, and his waving it around gets pretty funny, too.

This is definitely a fun play that makes you think and doesn't let you off the hook easily. It's a smart take on an important issue of our turbulent times. For more information, go to www.schmeater.org or call 206-324-5801.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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