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If you’re looking for an entertaining live and interactive experience, look no further than Brilliant Mind, created and written by Egyptian American playwright Denmo Ibrahim. Co-produced and presented by the Marin Theatre Company from now until June 13, 2021. There is a live segment, pre-recorded footage, live text messaging, and a choose the next story path option at certain points in the play.
The play tells the story of Dina (Denmo Ibrahim) and Yusef (Ramiz Monsef) after they learn of their estranged father’s death. The audience gets to meet their dad in the afterlife, Samir (Kal Naga), he is the only live performer, streamed via Youtube. The scene is integrated onto another platform that mixes the streamed live performance with pre-recorded footage of his children dealing with funeral arrangements. Samir is often making comments on his children’s conversations about him, their past, and family secrets finally revealed. The heart of the story is that of the siblings making sense of their past, present, and where they are headed.
The siblings were not treated equally due to their birth genders and Arab traditions. In many ways, it’s your typical immigrant story of battling dual identities when you’re a first generation American. Do you assimilate just to please your neighbors and protect yourself from violence and judgement? When you can’t shed your skin, it sometimes doesn’t matter. And when you have an opportunity to break traditions that limit you, do you keep them to please your family? When the answer is no, the distance you must sometimes create or are forced into, leads to a lonely place. Deep down, you do all you can to be successful, to be a good person, with the hope that you’ll come home one day and be accepted as you are.
Dina is a super busy and successful lawyer. She’s often texting and writing work emails while Yusef is trying to connect with her in kid ways. When they finally have a moment of laughter together, frustrations start to come out. Dina recalls how she didn’t have the same freedoms as her brother Yusef, and he constantly dismisses her experiences. Besides not being allowed to go out, she was also policed on the clothing she wore and given less useful gifts than her brother. For example, for his sixteenth birthday he got a car and she got jewelry. She also finds out that in her mother’s will, she went with tradition, having her son inherit two times more than her because female children get less than males. The will is a lingering storyline because her mother and brother keep avoiding the topic knowing she will be upset but, don’t necessarily think it’s wrong.
Yusef, although the spoiled one, is also a bit older than Dina. He remembers how his family tried to hide their true selves to protect themselves. He also knew about his dad’s other family. Despite Dina being a lawyer, he’s also entrusted with knowing the legal aspects of his family’s affairs. Yusef, also goes through bouts of depression. Mental health is oftened dismissed in immigrant families and in this Arab American family, the response from mom is no different. She tells him to appreciate what he has, family, a good wife, a job, a house, a car. Old school parents rarely had time to stop their routine even if they themselves were going through depression. This is also a good example in which gender norms are harmful to men, they’re not supposed to express their feelings let alone be depressed, often seen as a weakness.
Ibrahim and Monsef had good chemistry as siblings. However, Ibrahim’s portrayal was felt more. Her frustration really comes through in her mannerisms and facial expressions. Naga also showed a good range of emotions for his character. He had a serious demeanor and came off as someone who didn’t have many regrets. If he did I missed it, as I was more enthralled in the siblings emotional turmoil.
The only downside of this multifaceted presentation is that you wonder about the other choices you didn’t make during the “what do you want to happen” next opportunities. Another lingering thought when it comes to the immigrant experience. What if I didn’t take the path I did take?
May 22–Jun 13
by Denmo Ibrahim
Marin Theatre Company & Storykrapht
AN ORIGINATING PREMIERE
Tickets: $30 For more information, go to: https://www.brilliantmindshow.com