Have you ever wondered how some seemingly nice man or woman evolves from a more or less typical western style home in America or Europe into a mass murderer in the name of Allah? What is it the starts the process? Was it some awful experience with a different religion, let’s say Christianity perhaps? Did bad things happen at a young age then ferment and cause massive and growing levels of internal stress? How does a nice young American woman grow from a happy 7 year old child into a 25 year old bomber? Why would anyone raised in a western lifestyle actually want to wear a hijab? In our modern world these are all interesting questions. So is the all too common trend of mostly young people from many western nations running off to join wild murderous groups such as ISIS and willingly agreeing to become a suicide bomber. It was these contemporary forces in our world that motivated playwright Wendy Graf to pen “All American Girl.” It is a massively powerful often deeply insightful journey through the radicalization of one somewhat stereotypical American girl.
Now the world premier is underway at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood presented by the venerable InterACT Theatre Company and starring alternatingly Annika Marks and Jeanne Syquia. I went to see the show in my preferred manner which is utterly devoid of any preconceived notions. I had been to the venue before so I knew it was an intimate setting but that was all I knew.
The show I saw starred the multi award winning actress Annika Marks. [SEE: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialAnnikaMarks]. She takes the audience through the transition forom happy young American girl to a severely radicalized terrorist. The performance jumps from specific events at specific times sometimes going back to help set the stage for the next evolution. At each point along the way we see events that ultimately shape the American girl in sad and dangerous ways. One example is when the young girl observes molestation by Christian religious leader. The experience burns indelibly into her brain. Later in life the young American Girl falls in love with an Indian man who happens to be Muslim. That too brings an element of pain and a growing dissatisfaction with Western culture as she sees up close and personal various deeply unpleasant moments of bigotry displayed by some not always pleasant Americans. And then there are those always disturbing stories of children, Muslim children, being slaughtered through the terrorist acts of others.
This entire evolution is portrayed over 90 minutes with a magnificence of the highest order by the richly talented Annika Marks. She is required to display numerous voices and accents and demeanors and she delivers flawlessly. As for the content itself yes it is true that the show presents a less than perfect picture of Christianity and a rather over glorified view of Islam but thankfully it does not fall into the all too common trap of becoming yet another manifestation of the sick exercise of my God is better than your God. What it is is a brilliant revelation of how various forces and events can shape and mold a person’s view of the world in such a way that the mass murder of random people seems the best and perhaps only way to save the children,
This is not an easy task to perform and perform well. Yet with the powerful written words from Wendy Graf, the brilliant performance by Annika Marks and the obviously superb direction by Anita Khanzadian “All American Girl” set the standard for dramatic theatre. No it is not a musical, and there is close to no humor in the show. It is in many ways very dark and yes again I say there are some negative views of Christianity and some use of some very salty language but none of it is gratuitous. It exists for a clear and meaningful purpose and like so many other lesser shows it does not raise from the ashes of failed attempts at talent. What unfolds before the audience is a masterful display of highly believable if deeply tragic evolution of one woman from seemingly happy child to a terrorist bomber. The show raises far more questions than it solves. It forces thought and some people will find that uncomfortable, but the truth is this topic requires thought; a lot of thought for our world seems increasingly on the brink of the next dark ages. Today we see the once glorious nation of Greece struggling in financial ruin, young men and women from many western nations running off to join the murderous group of religious based thugs known as ISIS and yes even the once glorious nation we call America showing increasing signs of eternal decay and weakness. Our current world situation demands some serious thought about these matters and with the combined genius of Wendy Graf, Anita Khanzadian, Annika Marks and Jeanne Syquia the process begins with one small but poignant story of the All American Girl. This is a show you will not soon forget.
The All American Girl is at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90038 now through July 26th. Show times are 8:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday evenings and 3:00 PM on Sundays. Reservation and ticketing is available by calling 818-765-8732 or online at www.InterACT.org.
Did you know that there are literally hundreds on legitimate theatre stages in the greater Los Angeles area? Must people don’t know this. Say “Hollywood” and must folks instantly think of movies and television but almost never legitimate theatre. That is sad because there is an abundance of great talent out there and you can explore much of it with this book: http://www.lulu.com/shop/ron-irwin/hollywood-on-stage-a-critical-review-by-ron-irwin/paperback/product-22185952.html.
Copyright © 2015 Ron Irwin