FRINGE 2017: 'Sa’idah'

A young Syrian refugee who has lost her family and her arm is adopted by a famous movie actress, and brought from a hospital in Jordan to the celebrity’s home in Los Angeles.

A young Syrian refugee who has lost her family and her arm is adopted by a famous movie actress, and brought from a hospital in Jordan to the celebrity’s home in Los Angeles. That’s the setup for Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell’s hour-long play Sa’idah, directed very ably by Cara Hinh.

The title character, played with great compassion and soulful effect by Maya Farhat, holds tightly to her bag of belongings while refusing to utter a word to her new celebrity parents, Kristen (Mary O’Connell) and Taylor (Rich Buchanan). Their marriage is complicated by Kristen’s single-minded dedication to a Scientology-like cult that requires her to fearlessly approach a Great White shark in the ocean waters near their home. Her smug mentor and guru, David (Greg Mallios), convinces Kristen to continue her attempts at the dangerous deep-sea initiation, each time with more disastrous effect. Nina (Ashley Dunn), a friend of Kristen’s who is a Hollywood reporter, further agitates the situation.

Although Sa’idah keeps silent amid the family, the impressionistic format of the show allows her to share her thoughts and memories with the audience via projected slide presentations that often take the tone of a school lecture. It’s an effective combination, using an objective medium to relay deeply painful material.

The scene structure here is angular, difficult and overlapping, and it takes a while to figure out who and where the characters actually are. But performances are strong throughout, and Hinh does a nice job of helping the audience navigate some difficult waters.

The program notes inform that Sa’idah is Arabic for “The Fortunate One,” and the play shuffles through the various kinds of fortune, both good and bad, that its characters receive. From celebrities who seemingly have everything but throw it all away, to innocents who lose their families in a senseless war — this production does a solid job of measuring the balance between luck and loss, and how easily one can slip into the other.


The CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL continues through June 11. Find CityBeat reviews of 41 early performances here. For a full schedule and more info about Fringe, visit cincyfringe.com.

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