Wish You Were Here – Review by Marlene S. Gaylinn

Ironically, just as war is breaking out in the perpetually troubled Middle East, we have a play about a group of young, fairly educated women who were close friends in Iran during the political and cultural changes that took place during the 1978-1991. Before the upheaval, Iran was one of the most modern countries of the Middle East however, during this period of unrest, waves of emigration took place and long-standing friendships were lost.

Playwright, Sanaz Toossi, is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a member of Young Blood and Middle Eastern American Writers Lab. During a pre-recorded, promotional interview she explained that the play was inspired by her mother’s experiences when she emigrated to California.

And so, we begin with five girlfriends who are gathered in a comparatively modern residence that is located in the suburb of Iran. One of them is about to be married and her friends in attendance are eager to share in the experience of the “blushing bride.”
Warning: The explicit, sexual teasing and spotlighting of two menstrual accidents are more than enough to make the audience blush too. Unless this shocking gimmick is a cultural difference that we are unused to, depicting this animal-like behavior may be more typical of juvenile males than young, adult women. The result is a distraction considering the main theme of the play which is “separation” and “lost friendships” — according to the author’s interview and the program notes.

Never the less, the acting ensemble under the direction by Sivan Battat is outstanding. Anita Abdinezhad, as “Nazanin,” is not the first bride in the group. However, when it’s her turn to marry she gives a particularly moving performance as we finally begin to focus attention on her life.

Omid Akbari’s turn-table set, Sam Skynner’s projection, David DeCarolis’ lighting, and Mike Winch’s sound design enhance the various moods. This unusual, cultural encounter is a touching, human experience and very worthwhile seeing. Plays to October 28.