By Tulis McCall
OK – I may be the only one that didn’t “get” the set up so here it is. The Vagrant Trilogy – now at the Public Theater – is what is called a Conditional Trilogy. In the first play, “The Hour of Feeling” it is 1967 Palesine. We see Adham (Hadi Tabbal) a Palestinian Wordsworth scholar meet Abir (Tala Ashe) while he is avoiding a welcome home party. They marry and travel to London where he will deliver a lecture and she will be a fish out of water. When war breaks out at home his wife decides to return and he is left balancing on a razor’s edge.
In the second play set in 1982 “The Vagrant” we see one of two possibilities, that Adham stays in London and never quite fits in. In the third piece we are offered an alternate scenario. In “Urge For Going” Adham did return to Lebanon. It is 2003, and he lives in a refugee camp with Abir, their children, his brother and brother-in-law. In one he does not fit in, in the other he cannot get out.
This production is a kaleidoscope of brilliant performances. There were times when I thought another actor had been added to the roster, and may I just say I am a pretty sharp cookie when it comes to paying attention. Nope – no extra people – just six actors playing 19 parts. And, not for nothin’ but these actors have to speak two languages and manage a dizzying array of accents. In addition, the sliding set pieces seem to move on their own, flowing from offices, to hotels, to lecture halls, to classrooms, to apartments. Allen Moyer’s design is astonishing and demanding. Aided in no small part by Greg Emetaz’s video design. Every change has to look easy – and between this cast and crew the mission is accomplished. It is only in the last section of this Conditional Trilogy that the set stops moving, as do the characters.
This is an epic tale – the classic theme of home and heart. What do people do when home is not a simple location, as it is for most of us. What if home is something we carry with us? What if it is a location for which we settle, not the location of our dreams. And what if, like the destiny of every mythic journey, it is found within us?
“The Vagrant Trilogy” is a remarkable piece. Mansour’s specificity in creating these characters invites us to enter their worlds and their hearts. You do not need to be a Wordsworth scholar familiar with “Tintern Abbey” in order to cross this threshold.
PS – don’t worry about the length. Even at 3.5 hours that made my butt sore – the story made my heart soar.
THE VAGRANT TRILOGY by Mona Mansour, Directed by Mark Wing-Davey.
WITH Bassam Abdelfattah, Tala Ashe, Osh Ashruf, Caitlin Nasema Cassidy, Ramsey Faragallah, Nadine Malouf, Nuah Ozryel,Rudy Roushdi, and Hadi Tabbal.
Scenic design by Allen Moyer; costume design by Dina El-Aziz; lighting design by Reza Behjat; sound design by Tye Hunt Fitzgerald and Sinan Refik Zafar; video design by Greg Emetaz; hair, wigs, and make-up design by Tom Watson
Through May 22, at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette. Tickets HERE