The Who & The What – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

If you and your family have spent months exploring and possibly disagreeing on political issues, you will find it interesting meeting another family, immigrants, who are attempting to bridge the gap between the country they left, Pakistan, and the new land they’ve adopted, America. Old ways and traditions may clash with modernity and establishing a secure footing may be difficult to accomplish.

Real theater is here in this fascinating production by TheaterWorks Hartford available for streaming until November 28 in “The Who and The What” by Ayad Akhtar, dramatically directed by Aneesha Kudtarkar. You are quickly swept into the lives of this Muslim family, a father Afzal, played poignantly by Rajesh Bose, who cares deeply for his two daughters Zarina, captured sensitively by Jessica Jain, and her younger sibling Mahwash, an accommodating Sanam Laila Hashemi.

Afzel is concerned that Zarina is consumed by her goal of writing a novel about Muslim women and neglecting her own love life so he plays matchmaker to find her a soul mate. Enter Eli, a new convert to Islam, a sincere Stephen Elrod, who has to work hard to win over the ever questioning Zarina. Her preoccupation with shining a spotlight on the truth of how women are viewed by her religion threatens to destroy the family’s value system as her book looks at the prophet Muhammad in a decidedly different and disturbing way.

When her father finds the manuscript that she spent four years penning, he explodes with anger and the family is in danger of never reconciling, Much like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” the father fears his daughter has gone too far and he himself cannot bend enough to accept what she has done. Is Zarina now dead to him and to his faith? Their story is at once tender and funny, serious and disruptive. Each member is sincere in their feelings and unable to accept where the other stands. This eighty five minute production will keep you absorbed as honor and family are put to a gripping test they may not survive intact.

For membership information, call 860-527-7838 or go online to twhartford.org or email boxoffice@twhartford.org. A single ticket stream is $25 (24 hour streaming), a monthly membership (video on demand plus perks) is $20.21 a month with a one-time $5 startup fee or annual membership of $195 that includes 12 plays VOD.

Revel in the tenderness and tension that alternately consume this absorbing tale of family caught between reconciling the old world with the new, with love and devotion trapped in the middle.

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