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THEATER REVIEW Twice, Thrice, Frice
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times

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Playwright: Fouad Teymour

At: Silk Road Rising, 77 W. Washington Street. Tickets: 312-857-1234;; $38. Runs through: Nov. 10

This world premiere comedy concerns assimilated, Upper Middle Class American Moslem women. Amira ( Catherine Dildilian ), 39, is happily married to a doctor. Slightly older Khadija ( Annalise Raziq ), mother of two, is married to a university professor. Unmarried Samara ( Marielle Issa ), 31, is a grad student. Her late mother was Khadija's dear friend, so Khadija mothers her now. Samara alone wears a hijab, cites the Koran and says, "I run my life according to my faith." When she marries midway through the play, it's under sharia law. Her husband already has a wife, but sharia allows a man up to four wives plus concubines. However, Samara's hubbie also is Khadija's hubbie.

Despite the title, Twice, Thrice, Frice is less about Islamic polygamy than it is about women and their self-identities. Khadija ( the name of the Prophet's first wife—he had 11—and mother to his only children ) emerges as the surprising and reluctant hero who sets herself on a path to self-fulfillment beyond being a wife. As she finally says on the phone to her husband, "You get your Islamic marriage and I get my American divorce!"

Twice, Thrice, Frice also deals with various ramifications of motherhood. Khadija has a grown son and a teenage daughter, Samara becomes pregnant and very late in the play Amira and her unseen husband decide to adopt. It's a meaningful issue, but it feels shoe-horned in, especially for Amira who is neither the play's protagonist nor antagonist. I suggest it may be playwright Fouad Teymour's unconscious concession to patriarchy, which still dominates Islam ( and many other religions and cultures ).

Given the serious subjects of Twice, Thrice, Frice, it's surprising how light Teymour keeps this 100 minute play, which has excellent entertainment value. The audience connects emotionally with Khadija, so the key to the play's tone is in Khadija's buoyant spirit after the initial shock of her situation. It helps, too, that the three actors are convincing and genuine as directed with understated skill by Patrizia Acerra, who keeps things mostly conversational but lively. One may question how the playwright could allow Samara to do such a thing, but one never doubts the performance.

The handsome set for Twice, Thrice, Frice is designed by Jose Manuel Diaz-Soto. It's deep and wide, and uses floor patterns and rich colors to define several rooms in Amira's well appointed contemporary home. A range of grays and blues and slate and marble patterns give it a House Beautiful look. Lindsey Lydden's lighting ( say that fast three times ) warms it up nicely. The nonstop costume changes ( Noel Huntzinger, designer ) are stylish, expressive of character and colorful but conservative.

Twice, Thrice, Frice is produced by Silk Road Rising and International Voices Project.

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