Review: Veil’d

Front from left: Nikhaar Kishnani (Dima) and Christopher Reed Brown (Elliot); Background: Kayla Jackmon (Storyteller/UPS Guy/Speedo, the "Shark")

From left: Nikhaar Kishnani (Dima), Christopher Reed Brown (Elliot), and Kayla Jackmon (Storyteller/UPS Guy/Speedo, the “Shark”). Photo by Michael Dekker

Veil’d, now playing at the Astoria Performing Arts Center, is a show that positively sparkles with life while dealing with some heavy topics: Is the opportunity to be isolated from the problems of the world a blessing or a curse? How does what young women, particularly young Muslim women, choose to wear affect others’ opinions of them and their opinions of themselves?

The play follows Dima (Nikhaar Kishnani) a 16-year-old Afghani-American girl living in Brooklyn with her parents. Six years ago, Dima was diagnosed with a skin condition that forces her to stay inside her apartment twenty-four hours a day, safe from the prying eyes of the world and the painful rays of the sun. As additional protection, Dima also wears a burqa, a full-body covering worn by some Muslim women. Dima’s isolation has become an issue of some contention between her parents, Rhami (Sahar Bibiyan) and Amir (Rajesh Bose). Things become more complicated when Elliot (Christopher Reed Brown), a teenage boy who sells his poems on the street, begins tossing poems into her window. Throw Speedo (Kayla Jackmon), a talking nurse shark, into the mix, and Dima’s life is on a course she never dreamed possible.

Reed Brown brings an electrifying enthusiasm to the stage as teenage poet Elliot. Elliot’s humor and raw, unabashed enthusiasm for life emotionally invests the audience in the story. Jackmon, in a variety of roles including Speedo the shark, adds physical humor and compassion while simultaneously lending the story a semi-mystical quality. Bibiyan and Bose play off each other well, conveying the obvious love between them while also maintaining honesty about the pressures life has placed on them as refugees and parents of a child with a physical disability. Kishnani’s Dima is complex—withdrawn and outgoing, as well as curious and afraid of the world outside.

Special appreciation should be given to Claire DeLiso’s set design, which is literally multi-layered and dynamic, like the story. Christine Schisano’s puppet design perfectly bridges the gap between fantasy and reality. Monet Hurst-Mendoza’s script should be applauded for its loving portrayal of a Muslim family, not as foreign or fetishized, but as an ordinary American family living in extraordinary circumstances.

–Dan Rauchwerk

Veil’d – A World Premiere
Written by Monet Hurst-Mendoza
Directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays at 2pm
Through Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017

Astoria Performing Arts Center
Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
30-44 Crescent St (at 30th Road), Astoria, NY 11102

Adult Tickets: $18
Student/Senior Tickets: $12
Reserve Tickets Here