Entertainment » Theatre

Lost and Guided

by Brooke Pierce
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 14, 2017
Lost and Guided

The images we usually see of Syrian refugees are people clustered in large numbers on boats trying desperately to get to shore, or of dejected families living in camps. What most of us don't ever get to see are images of these people sitting in their homes enjoying a meal or talking to their friends on the phone complaining about work-in other words, experiencing "normal" life. The new play "Lost and Guided," presented by Conrad Fischer and The Angle Project, seeks to change that.

Taking place largely in Syria, the play opens with women sitting together and talking in a warm and inviting home. Rima (Mouna R'Miki) complains to her friend Amina (Mischa Ipp) about her husband and her boredom with life as a mother; she misses her days as a student under the tutelage of a smart, talented writing professor. But while Rima is frustrated with life, she still has hopes and dreams, and she has been writing stories in her notebooks.

Amina, on the other hand, is looking forward to her marriage to Imad (Doga Celik), a doctor. But the happy couple must delay their nuptials for a year while he takes advantage of an opportunity to work in the U.S. He is eager to learn about medical developments and state-of-the-art technologies in America, and then bring that knowledge back home to his people.

Following Imad's departure, though, unrest begins stirring in Syria. At first, there is reason to be excited. Young people are speaking out against the corrupt ruler Assad and protesting-something Rima's brother Sami (Shayan Sobhian) reports excitedly over the phone to Imad with wonder and hope for the future. Then those hopes turn sour. Sami is horrified by what he's seeing at the hospital where he works day in and day out, Rima feels that neither Assad nor his opponents care for the people, and Amina is considering going to Jordan to live as a refugee.

They all find themselves in situations they couldn't have possibly imagined, and it is easy to picture yourself in their shoes. Would you rather risk staying home amidst danger, or risk living -- possibly for years -- without a true home in a refugee camp? A willingness to leave comes with problems, too. The difficulty of obtaining visas and asylum status keeps even highly-employable Sami from being able to get out of Syria and makes the possibility of Amina ever reuniting with Imad seem hopeless. They are all trapped in a nightmare -- even Imad, who technically escaped in the nick of time, but is haunted by the loss of everyone he left behind.

Writer and director Irene Kapustina interviewed refugees here in the U.S. to learn more about their experiences, and 90 percent of "Lost and Guided" is made up of their own words. What they have to say is wide-ranging, from humorous romantic musings to passionate political observations to touching firsthand tales of the horrors of living in a war zone. The challenge of constructing a play in this way is that the dialogue is likely to seem less organic to the characters and it does in fact sometimes feel a bit stilted.

Overall, though, "Lost and Guided" makes a strong impression, showing just how quickly war and political violence can turn people's lives upside down. Nobody wants to flee their home. Nobody is born a refugee. The people we see in the harrowing images on TV and in the newspapers had lives much like our own before horrific circumstances changed everything. At a time when refugees are undeservedly looked at with suspicion by many, this play helps to humanize them and inspires much-needed compassion.

"Lost and Guided" runs through August 27 at Under St. Mark's, 94 St. Mark's Place, NYC. For information or tickets, call 800-901-7173 or visit www.lostandguided.com

Brooke Pierce is a freelance writer and playwright in New York City. Her plays have received staged readings at the American Theatre of Actors, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Stage One Theater. Brooke is a member of the Drama Desk and the Dramatists Guild.

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