Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok, the story follows two young adults through trials of love and life right after Sept. 11, 2001, as they both seek citizenship in the United States. Called only B and G, the characters help each other through adolescence and while figuring out where they fit in the world, their relationship is strained to the point of falling apart. When G becomes a naturalized citizen, she helps B legally reside in the country but complications arise that lead to conflict.
As Sanctuary City delicately portrays the trying process of two kids becoming adults and navigating a slew of heavy issues like immigration and domestic abuse, Director Kareem Fahmy says it still delivers light moments of comedy and clarity.
“Adolescence is written into every moment of the play. I mean, you watch these characters age from about, like, 17 to 22 or 23. So it's really capturing that very specific moment,” Fahmy tells CityBeat. “And what's great about the way [Majok] has written the play, is that you get to see the tough parts of that experience and also the really great parts of that experience. There's a really great sequence of the play that's centered around the high school prom and that is very universal, right? What I love about the play is just how it captures every part of that period of life. It's really captured very, very beautifully.”
As the New York Stage Review notes, Sanctuary has a number of “canny twists” as it navigates the complications of B and G’s experience. There’s also an anticipation and subtle mystery of how place is portrayed throughout. The script reads:
“It’s very surprising,” Fahmy says of the visuals and set, choosing his words carefully, as to not reveal secret details. “That’s all I have to say.”
Fahmy is a Canadian-born, New-York based theater director, screenwriter and playwright. He founded the Middle Eastern American Writers Lab and created the BIPOC Director Database. Fahmy tells CityBeat that he has been in the U.S. for 20 years and gained citizenship about two years ago.
While he can relate to the immigration process, he says Sanctuary isn’t necessarily a blatant commentary on the politics of the subject but rather a personal account of going through the “difficult” process. It’s best absorbed through a human lens, which allows the individual to examine the politics from their own point of view and with a situational and deeply personal story to reference for depth and empathy’s sake.
There seems to be an element of anonymity to Sanctuary, which ironically adds to the personability. While B and G’s experience is unique to them, their situation is not. When audience members can situate themselves within the story, whether it be directly or by way of the shared human experience, it aids in digestion and allows compassion to drive interpretation.
Sanctuary City transcends politics while favoring the human experience and the complexities of life. How can people relate to each other despite their differences? How can a love story about two kids provoke a dissection of current or past events and how they impact everyone’s life today?
Sanctuary City runs through Oct. 22. Find tickets and learn more here.
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