Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour has a novel idea on how to cross cultural divides. It doesn’t come through long mission statements or platitudes. Understanding is the product of people simply talking to each other.
And that’s the byproduct of Nassim, which isn’t so much a play as it is a grand theatre experiment. At Tuesday’s opening at the Citadel Theatre’s The Club venue, performer Belinda Cornish walked onto the stage not knowing what she would be doing over the next hour and a half. That’s because Soleimanpour’s touring show has a simple premise: A performer comes on stage, not knowing the script or stage directions. The performers get tidbits of the script as they go. It’s … um … scripted improvisation?
The person giving the directions is Soleimanpour himself. And, it’s clear he’s having great fun pulling the strings. Through simple nods, wry smiles or hand gestures, you understand how he feels about the performance and the show.
Of course, to stay true to the premise, Cornish isn’t coming back. For the rest of the show’s run — till May 5 — a different performer will appear every night. And if any of the future cast members are reading this review looking for spoilers, you’re not getting any. Ha!
What it shows us is that art does not have to be permanent. No two shows will be the same. The show you will see won’t be the same as the one I saw. The art will only last for the run of the show, and then it’s gone. And you’re left to think about what you’ve seen, how you’ve been given a better sense of Iranian culture, all because a conversation was started on the stage.
We worry way too much about permanence when it comes to art. With this show, Soleimanpour is telling us that it’s OK to live in the moment, and to know we’re sharing a secret with our fellow audience members on that given night.