Monday, October 02, 2017

Zeitgeist Stage Company Presents the Brilliant "Faceless" by Selina Fillinger - A MUST SEE

Kudos to David Miller and the Zeitgeist Stage Company for producing one of the most memorable and impactful plays of this excellent theater season in Boston. Young playwright, Selina Fillinger, first penned "Faceless" as an assignment for a class she was taking at Northwestern University, winning a commission from Northlight Theatre to develop the play. She shows remarkable insight and sensibilities for a writer still in her early 20s. This production represents the New England Premiere.

In "Faceless," the playwright explores deeply several important and timely issues:
  • Who is the face of Islam, and of terrorism?
  • How does the persistent xenophobia in America impact individual lives?
  • What happens when a Muslim prosecutor tries to gain a conviction against a young white girl who has converted to Islam?
  • What is the role of social media in influencing religious and political beliefs?
  • Who is the hero and who is the victim here?
  • How universal is the struggle for a meaningful relationship with a father?
The story is told through the eyes of five fascinating and well-developed characters. The five actors cast by Director Miller are powerfully effective in telling this complex story. They stand out individually and as an ensemble.
  • Victor Shopov brings his usual impressive tools to the role of Scott Bader, a politically ambitious Prosecutor who is intent on convicting young Susie Glenn of conspiring to travel to Syria to join ISIS. He cleverly coerces a female Muslim assistant prosecutor, Claire Fahti, to join him in this case. His closing statement at the trial of Ms. Glenn is particularly powerful and poignant.
  • Aina Adler is a dynamo as the conflicted Persian-American attorney, Claire Fahti. She initially wants no part of being used as the face of Islam at the trial, but she becomes passionate about bringing Susie to justice after meeting her. The always professional Ms. Adler is at the top of her game here, facing off against Bader and Glenn.
  • Ashley Risteen creates a very believable Susie Glenn. Naive, stubborn, rebellious, lost, determined - we see all of these traits in Ms. Risteen's eyes, voice and physical presentation. It is a strong performance.
  • David Anderson as Alan Glenn, Susie's widowed father, has lost a wife and is in danger of losing his daughter - "All he has left in the world." The scene in which this tough-as-nails first responder melts down over the prospect of losing his little girl represents some of the best acting I have seen on a Boston stage in a long while. It is a scintillating and award-worthy performance.
  • Robert Orzalli is perfectly cast as the Jewish defense attorney brought in to replace the ineffectual public defender. He spars - not only with the prosecution team - but with his own client.
Victor Shopov as Scott Bader
Aina Adler as Claire Fahti
Robert Orzalli as Mark Arenberg
Ashley Risteen as Susie Glenn
"Faceless" by Selina Fillinger
Zeitgeist Stage company
Boston Center for the Arts
Through October 7th

Mr. Miller's direction and blocking is flawless. The closing arguments by the two attorneys take place with them going from one side of the stage to the other in perfectly synchronized, countervailing movements. Another vivid image is the two Muslim women facing off opposite one another reciting prayers from the Koran - one in Arabic and the other in English.

Set design is by David Miller, Costumes Design by Elizabeth Cole Sheehan, Lighting Design by Michael Clark Wonson, and Sound Design by Jay Mobley.

This is the final week of this production, beginning Wednesday and running through Saturday. If you see any play this week, it should be this one. This play and this production moved me to tears and caused me to think deeply about important issues.



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